6 Ways to Soothe Eye Allergies
Whether you have seasonal allergies or indoor or outdoor allergies that bother you year-round, there are a number of actions you can take to help prevent and relieve eye allergy symptoms and get eye allergy relief.
The best tip may be to avoid allergens in the first place, but that can be very hard to do, especially if you have reactions to both indoor and outdoor allergens. So we’ll focus on some other preventive steps you can take to limit eye allergies, as well as eye allergy treatments and actions you can take to soothe your eyes and get relief.
Here are 6 ways to limit & relieve eye allergies:
1. Wash your hands frequently.
Why are we talking about hands when this is about eyes? Because when we have burning, watery eyes or red, itchy eyes, we tend to touch and rub our eyes, which can make our irritated eyes feel worse. Washing hands after petting a cat or dog, dusting, vacuuming, being outside or bringing in flowers is important. Having clean hands means if you do accidentally rub your eyes, you’re at least less likely to add more allergens to them.
2. Wear glasses or sunglasses and ditch the contacts.
If you have outdoor allergies and you know you’re in your peak allergy season, pausing contact use for a while can help prevent allergens from becoming trapped between your contacts and your eyes. Contacts can also make eye allergy irritation feel worse. The bonus when you wear your glasses or sunglasses outdoors is that they provide a sort of shield to keep dust, pollen and other allergens out. Wraparound sunglasses offer even more protection.
3. Develop habits that minimize indoor allergens.
Whether you’re spring-cleaning or getting your home ready for winter, there are certain things you can do to minimize eye allergies caused by indoor allergens. Dust furniture frequently using a microfiber or electrostatic cloth that traps the dust instead of just moving it around. Vacuum at least once a week or more (especially if you have pets) with a high-quality vacuum that incorporates a HEPA filter. Wash your bed linens frequently and use mattress and pillow covers that serve as a barrier to dust mites. During months in which you run your heater or air conditioning, be sure to use a high-efficiency filter and replace it as directed (usually every 1 to 3 months).
If you have a pet, especially one that spends time outdoors, bathing them more frequently or at least wiping them down before they come inside can help reduce the outdoor allergens they bring in. If you’re allergic to pet dander, keep pets out of the bedroom so you can sleep in a room with fewer allergens.
4. Apply a soft, cold compress to your eyes.
When your eyelids are swollen and your eyes are burning, red and itchy, a cool or cold compress can give you soothing eye allergy relief. You can use a soft washcloth or a compress or eye mask designed especially for the eyes. Soft compresses like these are gentle on your eyes, which is important because you don’t want a scratchy cloth to further irritate your eyes or the skin around them. Using a compress is simple too. Just soak your soft cloth or compress in cool or cold water, and wring it out so it’s not dripping wet. Or, follow the directions on a specially made eye compress (e.g. you might be able to place it in the refrigerator to get it cold). Once your compress is ready, place it gently over your eyes and relax. As one side gets warm, flip the compress to the other, cooler side. When it’s no longer cold at all, you can refresh it with cool or cold water again and reuse.
5. Ask your doctor about allergy shots or medications.
If you’ve dealt with allergies for a while, you may already be taking medication, such as prescribed or over-the-counter allergy pills or tablets. These medications use antihistamines to help prevent and relieve allergy symptoms, including eye allergy symptoms. If you’re not taking medication, talk to your doctor about whether they’d be right for you. If you have severe allergies or suffer from allergies for most or all of the year, allergy shots (also called immunotherapy) may be another allergy treatment option for you. The shots actually contain a small amount of the allergen you react to in them. The amount of allergen is increased over time to help your body develop immunity—get used to and tolerate—the allergen you typically react to. Building up this immunity can take months, but as it happens you should notice symptoms, including eye allergy symptoms, going away.
6. Use eye drops.
Eye irritation can include symptoms like redness, burning, itchy and dry eyes. You can use a variety of eye drops to relieve some symptoms, such as artificial tears, lubricating eye drops, and saline rinses.
These types of eye drops, however, do not usually contain an antihistamine that would directly target eye allergy symptoms. For treating eye allergies, you may want to choose eye drops with an antihistamine in its ingredients. Antihistamines help block the effect of the allergen and lessen or prevent a reaction. Note, if you have severe redness, swelling or pain in your eyes, talk to your doctor. They may want you to use prescription eye drops that would be more effective at treating severe eye allergy reactions.
To get the most out of each drop and each bottle, how to use eye drops if you wear contacts, as well as how to avoid contamination that could further irritate your eyes, or if you’re not used to using eye drops, read The Right Way to Use Eye Drops for some tips.
*when available by prescription only