Seasonal Allergies and Your Eyes
Seasonal allergies are most common in the spring and fall, but can also happen all year. It all depends on what your body has an immune response (or allergic reaction) to. For example, many people have been told they have “hay fever,” also called allergic rhinitis, but what is that exactly?
Hay fever typically refers to a seasonal allergy to pollen and its symptoms are similar to a common cold— sneezing, runny nose and sinus congestion—along with itchy or watery eyes. But, an allergic response to outdoor or indoor allergens beyond pollen can occur at any time of year or in particular seasons. Unfortunately, no matter what season you have allergies in, the eyes are often affected.
Eye Allergy Symptoms
Red, itchy eyes are a key sign of seasonal allergies, especially in spring when pollen counts are high and spring breezes blow that pollen everywhere. Your eyes might become watery, burn, or feel irritated and dry during allergy seasons. Your eyelids can be affected too. Allergens irritate and inflame, which can result in swollen eyelids especially in spring or fall, when certain pollen counts are high.
All these symptoms are a result of your immune system trying to protect you from what it perceives as a threat—the allergen (pollen, ragweed, mold, etc.).
It’s important to be aware of the allergens present in each season, so you can figure out what might be triggering your symptoms and limit your exposure as much as possible. You can also check the pollen counts and air quality during spring and fall when seasonal allergies are at their worst.
Spring – Pollen is the main spring allergen. It’s that green dust that falls from the trees, coats your car, and even sprinkles your windowsills at home if you leave the windows open. Flower pollen from many new blooms in this beautiful season can also trigger allergies. Some flowers are more triggering than others, such as daisies, asters, and dahlias. When planting your garden, look for plants such as azaleas, lilies, begonias, and roses that are pollinated by bees and other insects rather than by wind. This could help reduce the amount of allergens you are exposed to.
Summer – Toward the end of spring and into the summer, while tree and flower pollen may subside, grass pollen and mold spores become the main allergens. Keeping your windows closed and using air conditioning in your home and car can help reduce your exposure.
Fall – Fall can be as bad as spring for some allergy sufferers. This is because mold spores grow on damp leaves and ragweed pollen enters the fray. To get an idea of how high pollen counts can be, know that in one season one ragweed plant can release a billion grains of pollen into the air.
Winter – A warm winter can still bring on outdoor allergies, but the main culprit of eye allergies in winter are indoor allergens when we tend to spend more time in the home. With windows closed and heat running, indoor allergens like dust, dust mites, mold, and pet dander can trigger red, watery, itchy eyes. Using mattress and pillow covers that repel dust mites can help, as well as frequently washing bed sheets and comforters. Eliminating carpets in favor of flooring also helps reduce trapped dust and pet dander. You also may want to bathe your pet more to limit pet dander in the home.