Red, itchy, watery eyes are common in the spring, when allergies and hay fever strike. Why are the eyes affected? What can you do about the effects of allergies on the eyes in the spring?
Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is an immune system response to pollen or dust in the air. The molecules enter through the eyes and nose. In people with hay fever, their immune system treats these particles like foreign invaders. Sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, red and watery eyes, and itchy eyes, nose, ears, and mouth are the primary symptoms. Around 40 to 60 million Americans get hay fever.
When a person with hay fever comes into contact with an allergen, their body produces histamines. Histamines are chemicals that irritate tissues. The blood carries histamines to the affected tissues. This results in allergy symptoms in the nose, eyes, and even the mouth and ears. Histamines cause inflammation, giving other immune system chemicals room to work.
The histamine response is useful when the body encounters a real threat, such as poison from an insect bite. However, hay fever is a nuisance and can cause exhaustion. A chronically stuffy nose is the perfect environment for viruses and bacteria to grow. Therefore, inhalant allergies can lead to frequent sinus infections.
Eyes and Allergies
Treating or reducing the allergies should clear up the eye symptoms. Options include:
- medicines such as antihistamines, steroidal nasal allergy sprays (intranasal corticosteroids), vasoconstrictors, and mast cell stabilizers
- allergy desensitization shots
- dietary approaches, such as avoiding mucus-producing foods like dairy products
- Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture
- certain supplements such as Vitamin D3
- nasal irrigation (neti pot or nasal irrigation kit from the pharmacy)
You may be tempted to reach for the “get the red out” eye drops. Avoid them, as they can backfire. If your allergenic eyes need extra support, try preservative-free artificial tears or Allergy Desensitization Homeopathic Eye Drops. These drops sooth the eye and provide tiny amounts of eyebright and other agents to help reduce allergic symptoms.
Pollen is in the air and difficult to avoid. However, you can try this:
- stay indoors when pollen counts are high (check the weather forecast)
- install a whole-house air purifier on your HVAC system and keep the filters clean
- run an air purifier in your room
- do not rub the eyes
- wash your face to remove particles
- wear eye goggles or wrap-around sunglasses outdoors
- breathe through a paper mask or cloth kerchief when outside
- flush the eyes with clean water if they are irritated
- use preservative-free artificial tears every few hours for comfort
Note: Natural Eye Care offers an all-natural package for addressing allergies and the eyes. Our Allergy Season Package 1 includes a combination of Western and Eastern herbs and nutrients. These supplements help manage seasonal allergy symptoms.