Red, itchy, watery eyes are common in the spring, when allergies and hay fever strike. Sometimes we wake in the morning and what we notice most is that our eyes are itchy and sore. This may be due to a combination of seasonal allergen sensitivity and tired eyes from computer eye fatigue.
Why are the eyes affected? What can you do about the effects of allergies on the eyes in the spring? Any why does eye fatigue worsen the feeling of itchy eyes?
The allergies component
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.
The Eye Fatigue Component
Computer eye strain affects over 90% of frequent computer users. Eye fatigue is a frequent companion to computer eye strain. OSHA describes it as a repetitive strain disorder affecting 90% of U.S. workers on computers daily.
We experience computer eye strain because we may be: too close to computer, spending too many hours at the computer, blinking less, have poor posture, have poor lighting, or work with excessive glare.
There are two main issues that cause computer eye fatigue and contribute to potentially serious vision problems, eye movement and distance, and blue light.
- Eye movement and distance. Our eye muscles are most relaxed when we are using our distance vision. In the absence of mostly close-up work, our grandparents’ eyes flexed continually during the day, from near to far, from far to near. Vision problems arose when long hours of close work in poor light brought eyestrain. Furthermore, we are also designed to move. Sitting all day in one position is unnatural and has consequences for both vision and general health. Studies show that digital device users blink about half as frequently, and the surface of their eyes gets drier.
- Blue light exposure. Because blue light is a short wavelength, it has more energy and “flickers” more easily than longer, weaker wavelengths. While not superficially noticeable, blue light creates glare, reduces visual contrast, affects vision acuity, and causes general eyestrain, headaches, and fatigue. The damaging effects of blue light are more serious in low light conditions when the pupil is enlarged and takes in more light. Consequently, the retina receives a larger dose of blue light.
Allergies + Eye Fatigue
Many of us don’t substantially suffer from seasonal allergies. We may notice a little more stuffiness in the head or nose when pollen counts are highest, or when we’ve been eating a lot of congestion-causing foods, such as cold milk or cold drinks, cheeses, non-fermented (or even fermented) dairy products.
But for many of us in the Spring we wake up and our eyes just feel sore and itchy. Here’s where allergies + eye fatigue come in.
- We are, perhaps unknowingly, sensitive to certain pollens in the spring. The mild allergen causes an inflammatory reaction in the body, and since our eyes are the most sensitive to environmental changes, we notice it the most in our eyes. Furthermore, we notice it the most in the morning when our eyes have not been engaged in blinking for the hours of sleep.
- We have been spending a lot of time on the computer. Likely, these days, we’ve been spending even more time online than usual as we work remotely from home. We meet up on Zoom rather than at the coffee shop. We conference on one of the many convenient apps rather than in a conference room. And our eyes feel the result!
Solutions for Both Causes
It makes sense to treat the problem from both approaches. The itchy eyes result from both causes, and the causes act synergistically to worsen the itchy eyes.
- Warm compress. Start your day with a warm compress. As soon as you get up in the morning run a clean wash cloth under warm-to-hot water (use your own comfort level) and hold it over your eyes for 30 seconds. You can add EyeEase formula (see the instructions on the product page for taking this formula both internally and used as a compress). It is not an eyedrop.
- Water. Drink lots of water during the day – and drink it at room temperature or hot. Coffee tastes great, but plain pure water is what your body needs.
- Diet. Pay attention to your diet. Avoid lots of sugary sweets, heavy foods, and dairy products.
- Sunglasses. When you go outside, be sure to wear UV protecting sunglasses.
- HEPA filter. If needed a room-sized air purifier with a HEPA filter may be very helpful.
- Allergy nutrients – pollen focus. You may find our Allergy Season Package 1 to be helpful. This discounted package includes Jason’s AllergEase Formula, quercitin-bromelain complex, and vitamin D3. This package includes nutrients that are helpful against allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (nose – eye).1 2
- Allergy nutrients – probiotic focus. Researchers suggest that addressing digestive issues is one therapeutic approach against rhinoconjunctivital problems. One successful trial found the combination of Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and B. longum effective.3 These strains are found in either of the following probiotic combinations: Flora 5-14™ Complete Care or FloraMend Prime Probiotic®
- Computer eye fatigue nutrients. Our Computer Eye Strain Package 1 includes astaxanthin,4 5 6 7 8 Advanced Eye & Vision Support Formula,9 and black currant seed oil.10
While medicines such as antihistamines and allergy desensitization shots may be needed for those with more severe allergies, we prefer safer alternatives such as acupuncture, dietary approaches, nasal irrigation, and a good quality HEPA air filter used in a small room-sized unit.
If you need better allergen help but want to avoid the heavy-duty drugs (many of which are noted for vision damage) you could try the homeopathic remedies, which are very effective. We recommend Clear Life Allergy Relief.
Up Next: Three tips for Computer Eye Strain.
- Ciprandi G, Leonardi S, Zicari AM, Tosca MA, Marseqlia G. (2020). Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis: pathophysiological mechanism and new therapeutic approach. Acta Biomed. Mar 19;91(1):93-96. ↩
- Wu AW, Gettelfinger JD, Ting JY, Mort C, Higgins TS. (2020). Alternative therapies for sinusitis and rhinitis: a systematic review utilizing a modified Delphi method. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. Apr;10(4):496-504. ↩
- Dennis-Wall JC, Culpepper T, Nieves C, Rowe CC, Burns AM, et al. (2017). Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2) improve rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life in individuals with seasonal allergies: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. Mar;105(3):758-767. ↩
- Yuan JP, Peng J, Yin K, Wang JH. (2011). Potential health-promoting effects of astaxanthin: a high-value carotenoid mostly from microalgae. Mol Nutr Food Res. Jan;55(1):150-65. ↩
- Ogami, S.K. (2010). Effect of astaxanthin on accommodation and asthenopia Efficacy identification study in healthy volunteers. J Clin Ther Med, 21(5):543-556. ↩
- Iwasaki, T., Tawara, A. (2006). Effects of Astaxanthin on Eyestrain Induced by Accommodative Dysfunction. J Eye (Atarashii Ganka), Jun;23(6):829-834. ↩
- Kenji, S., Kazuhiro, O., Takuya, N., Yasuhiro, S., Shinki, C., Kazuhiko, Y., et.al. (2005). ↩
- Effect of Astaxanthin on Accommodation and Asthenopia-Efficacy-Identification Study in Healthy Volunteers, Conference Proceedings. Journal of Clinical Therapeutics and Medicines. ↩
- J. Stringham, N. Stringham, et al, Macular Carotenoid Supplementation Improves Visual Performance, Sleep Quality, and Adverse Physical Symptoms in Those with High Screen Time Exposure, Foods, June, 2017. ↩
- Kapoor R, Huang YS. (2006). Gamma linolenic acid: an antiinflammatory omega-6 fatty acid. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. Dec;7(6):531-4. ↩