Protect Your Eyes During Allergy Season

Sneezing and eye redness from seasonal allergyAllergy season is once again upon us, causing many people a great deal of discomfort, including eye irritation and redness. According to conservative estimates, more than one in five Americans has allergies, and the number rises every year.

And to compound the problem, researchers have noted that due to climate change, allergy season will be longer in the upper latitude of North America.

How Hay Fever Affects the Eyes

Hay fever can affect the eyes and other parts of the head, plus the throat. For a person with allergies, breathing in allergens causes an immune system reaction. The body tries to clear out the “invader” by triggering sneezes and a runny nose. The eyes, roof of the mouth, throat, and nose may itch. The nose and mucous membranes become inflamed. This includes the conjunctiva.

The conjunctiva covers the inside of the eyelids and the visible whites of the eyes. Eyes that have allergic conjunctivitis look red. Allergy sufferers may be unable to resist the urge to rub their eyes. Rubbing makes it worse. Plus, dirty hands could introduce unwanted particles and germs.

Rubbing itchy allergy eyeEye Conditions That Can Result from Allergies

  • Vernal keratoconjunctivitis is a chronic bilateral seasonal allergic inflammatory disease of the eye.1 Patients experiencing conjunctivitis only during allergy seasons often have other family members with allergy-related conditions, such as asthma or hay fever. It is more common in boys than girls, and more common under 20 years old. It occurs most often in hot-climate summers.
  • Several studies showed that allergic rhinitis is associated with open-angle glaucoma2 and cataracts3
  • Allergies are found in approximately 40–50% of keratoconus patients and may be a contributing factor, perhaps resulting from constant eye rubbing due to itchiness.4 5

How to Reduce Seasonal Allergy Discomfort

  • Don’t rub your eyes.  Instead, massage around your eyes if you want to help improve circulation and move energy. Rubbing your eyes can break small blood vessels around the eyes, possibly resulting in a tired look. Rubbing may also damage the cornea and increase the risk of infection.
  • Stop smoking. Besides causing circulatory problems, smoking can cause a thinning of the skin due to interference with blood flow to the skin. The smoke rising from the cigarette can also aggravate the eyes. Smoking depletes the body of essential nutrients such as vitamin C, which is essential in repairing skin. Smokers are also four times more likely than non-smokers to feel tired after a night’s sleep.
  • Change your sleeping position. If you sleep on your side or stomach, try sleeping on your back, and even add an extra pillow under your head.
  • Neti pot. A neti pot may help reduce excess fluid buildup. For safety, use distilled water, or water that has been boiled and cooled.
  • Remove makeup. Makeup contains substances that can irritate eye tissue. Always remove makeup when you can, and definitely, before you go to bed. Use only natural, organic makeup – you can check for safe products at the Environmental Working Group.
  • Use cold compresses. Close your eyes and gently cover them with a cold washcloth for about five minutes, several times a day. This can improve circulation and slightly reduce the puffiness that some people experience.
  • Moisturize. You can plump up your skin slightly by using a good moisturizer that contains vitamin C, licorice, fennel, and stabilized oxygen. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects skin cells from damage and supports collagen production. Licorice and fennel remove inflammation, and stabilized oxygen is a form of hydrogen peroxide that promotes circulation.
  • Lid scrub. Use a commercial lid scrub or baby shampoo on a cotton ball to wash your lids.

A Few Old-School Remedies

Some of these remedies may be helpful. Others may not. For example, if you get hot flashes or headaches when you eat a lot of tomatoes, then the tomato/lemon remedy below may not work for you!

Tea for Allergy Relief

  • Black tea. First, steep in warm water, then squeeze out the excess water and apply under the eyes. There are tannins in the black tea that reduce blood vessel dilation.
  • Rosemary tea. Try applying a cold compress of rosemary tea to increase circulation, which helps reduce swelling around the eyes. Bring a half-cup of fresh rosemary and a quart of water to a boil. Steep for 20 minutes, then strain and chill. Soak a washcloth in the tea, ring out extra liquid, and place over the eyes for 15 to 20 minutes—once a day or as needed.

Vegetables to Soothe Allergy Symptoms

  • Cucumber slices. Take thinly sliced cucumber and cool the slices by placing them in the refrigerator. These slices can be placed over closed eyes and left for 15 minutes every day. This is an excellent way to keep wrinkles and dry skin away.
  • Raw potato slices. Close your eyes and cover your eyelids with slices of raw potato for 15–20 minutes. Then rinse with warm water and apply a hydrating herbal cream or an eye- or facial moisturizer.
  • Cucumber juice. Grate a cucumber. Extract the juice by squeezing the pulp, and refrigerate. Make a mixture of lemon juice, lanolin cream, and cucumber juice, and apply around the eye. Leave on for 10–15 minutes.
  • Combination of potato and cucumber juices. Dip some cotton cloth or cotton pads in a 1:1 mixture of potato juice and cucumber juice. Put the cotton on your eyelids and rest for 20 minutes. Rinse your eyelids with cold water afterward.

Hot and cold

  • Alternate hot and cold compresses. To increase circulation, alternately apply hot (but comfortable) and cold water under your eyes with a washcloth, for 30 seconds each time, for 10 minutes.
  • Warm to cool compress. Apply a warm, wet washcloth as a compress to the affected area, and hold it in place until cool; cold compresses are used for allergic-related conjunctivitis. Repeat this application 5–10 minutes, 3–4 times per day.

Herbs and more

  • Calendula. This herb is soothing and reduces swelling, itching, and inflammation. It is helpful for infections like conjunctivitis, irritation due to pollution, allergies, and minor injuries. It is antiseptic. Apply as a compress, or use as an eyewash or eyedrop.
  • Salt and baking soda. Boil water, then pour 1/2 cup into a bowl or cup. When the water is warm, stir in 1/4 teaspoon of salt plus 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. Dip a clean finger in the mixture and rub on eyelid margins with eyes closed, once in the morning and once at night before bed.
  • Parsley contains vitamin K, which can help increase circulation under the eyes and reduce puffiness.
    • Mix a handful of fresh parsley with one tablespoon of plain yogurt in a food processor until a paste is formed. To apply, rub the paste under your eyes and leave it for 20 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water. For this to work most efficiently, repeat once a week.
    • Freeze parsley into ice cubes, wrap the ice cubes in a soft small towel, then apply under the eyes. The parsley ice cube will soothe the eyes and, at the same time, work on diminishing the dark circles. Parsley is also packed with chlorophyll that helps fade darkness. The ice cubes reduce the swelling.
  • Egg whites are astringent, can tighten pores, and can reduce puffy bagginess. Egg whites also have lots of B vitamins that promote good circulation and reduce inflammation.
      • If you are concerned that an egg is old, test it. Pour room-temperature water into a glass, then drop the egg into the water. If it floats, it is NOT good.
      • Dab half a teaspoon of one raw egg white on the clean, dry skin around your eyes only. Important: don’t get it in your eyes. Leave it on for about 15 minutes until it dries, then rinse well with warm water. Finally, wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Homemade rose water contains both vitamins A and C and has strong astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. Simmer rose petals in just enough distilled water to cover them. When the petals have lost their color, strain the liquid and let it cool. Dip a cotton ball into the rosewater and dab it under the eyes to reduce dark circles and refresh the skin. You can save the rosewater in a jar for future use.
  • Apply a mixture of lemon and tomato juice (equal parts) two times a day. This may also be helpful for dark circles. Make a paste out of the following, apply around the eyes (not in the eyes), and leave for 10 minutes before rinsing.
      • 1 tsp. tomato juice
      • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
      • pinch of turmeric powder
      • 1 tsp. of flour
  • Turmeric-pineapple paste. A paste of turmeric with pineapple juice on the skin under your eyes may help.
  • Crushed Mint may be applied around the eyes.
  • Almond oil massaged under and around the eyes at bedtime, daily for two weeks, helps remove dark circles and is an excellent “skin food.”
  • Castor oil or honey. Place a small bit of fresh, natural castor oil on a cotton swab, and apply it to the inner lower lid margin. Mix honey with sterile spring water to reduce stinging. Honey has antibiotic, antifungal, and antiviral properties.

Massage and Acupressure

Massage and acupressure are helpful because they support increased circulation that can eliminate the fluid build-up associated with bags. Helpful massage types may include aromatherapy massage, shiatsu, Thai massage, and reflexology. Here is a great circulation-boosting massage that you can do yourself.

    • Close your eyes and gently press your ring finger underneath one eye on the bone, moving from the inside corner to the outside corner along the eye orbit (on the bone structure around the eyes).

Seasonal Allergy Diet

Eat yogurt or kefir. One trial suggested that beneficial bacteria may be helpful.6 Kefir typically contains about three times as much beneficial bacteria as yogurt.

The acidophilus in yogurt/kefir combats bacterial infection. Likewise, we also suggest acidophilus supplements. Eat 1/2 cup of yogurt with live cultures three times per day. Or, take an acidophilus supplement with about six billion live or probiotic organisms three times per day.

Yogurt can also be used in a soothing compress for the eyes. Don’t put the yogurt directly in your eyes. Keep the eyes closed and place a yogurt-infused damp cold washcloth over the eyes for 10 minutes. Rinse with clean water.

Essential Oils

Peppermint essential oil. An in-vitro study7 suggested that peppermint oil treatment had enough anti-inflammatory effects on the symptoms of bronchial asthma and allergic rhinitis to warrant clinical trials. Essential oils can be diffused into the air. If applied to the skin, essential oils should first be diluted in a carrier oil.

Eucalyptus essential oil. Advocates of natural healing suggest using eucalyptus oil as an antimicrobial agent by adding it to each load of wash during allergy season.

Frankincense essential oil. Based on the results of a 2016 study,8 frankincense oil may help against perennial allergic rhinitis. You can dilute it in a carrier oil and use behind your ears. Or diffuse it into the air.

If you are concerned about side effects, try a natural approach.


  1. Ghiglioni DG, Zicari AM, Parisi GF, Marchese G, Indolfi C, et al. (2021). Vernal keratoconjunctivitis: An update. Eur J Ophthalmol. Nov;31(6):2828-2842.
  2. Chung, S.D.., Lin, H.C., Hung, S.H. (2014). Allergic rhinitis is associated with open-angle glaucoma: a population-based case control study. AM J Rhinol Allergy, Jul-Aug:28(4):e148-51.
  3. Lee YB, Lee JH, Kang MJ, Choi JY, et al.(2018). Association between allergic diseases and ophthalmologic diseases, including cataracts and glaucoma, using the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2010-2012: A STROBE-compliant article. J Dermatol. Apr;45(4):463-467.
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  5. Santodomingo-Rubido J, Carracedo G, Suzaki A, Villa-Collar C, Vincent SJ, et al. (2022). Keratoconus: An updated review. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2022 Jun;45(3):101559.
  6. Dennis-Wall JC, Culpepper T, Nieves C Jr, 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. 2017 Mar;105(3):758-767.
  7. Juergens UR, Stöber M, Vetter H. (1998) The anti-inflammatory activity of L-menthol compared to mint oil in human monocytes in vitro: a novel perspective for its therapeutic use in inflammatory diseases. Eur J Med Res.Dec 16;3(12):539-45.
  8. Rogerio AP, Carlo T, Ambrosio SR. (2016). Bioactive Natural Molecules and Traditional Herbal Medicine in the Treatment of Airways Diseases. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:9872302.
  9. Schapowal A; Study Group.(2005). Treating intermittent allergic rhinitis: a prospective, randomized, placebo and antihistamine-controlled study of Butterbur extract Ze 339. Phytother Res. Jun;19(6):530-7.