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The Pollen Section

All About Eye Allergies

As a result, researchers – some of whom use goggles loaded with pollen to trigger reactions – have found that, in addition to oral antihistamines and allergy eye drops, steroid nasal sprays such as Avamys can be an effective way to get the eyes to chill out. The key to the effectiveness of the medications, says Keith, is to start taking them early.

For instance, if ragweed is a trigger, don’t hold off on the prescription until the tail end of summer.

“It’s really important for people who have problems to take their nasal spray for two weeks prior to the season, so they reduce the number of cells that can react in the nose,” he says. “You don’t get as great an effect if you wait until you’re in the middle of allergy season and get out of control.”

Protecting the Eyes in Allergy Season

So what else can allergy sufferers do to stop looking like they’ve been weeping for weeks? Driving with the windows closed and being aware of pollen counts can help keep the allergen exposure down. If a trigger gets the upper hand, artificial tears products can keep the eyes lubricated and offer some relief.

Persistent symptoms may require prescription allergy eye drops such as Patanol and Zaditor that stabilize the mast cells and keep them from wreaking havoc on the conjunctiva. Oral antihistamines can also help; and allergy shots can reduce the overall allergy load.

“Sometimes when symptoms are severe, you have to throw the kitchen sink at the patient,” says Kim, who regularly lectures optometry students at the University of Waterloo on allergic conjunctivitis.

“Those medications are all considered to be quite safe, and they all work differently, so it’s not wrong to use more than one at a time.”

For the most part, Ken Hegan skips the medications and just toughs out his symptoms every spring and summer. He envies people who don’t feel like scratching their eyes out every year when the nice weather rolls around. Still, through all of his tears, he can see a silver lining.

“It’s a good excuse if you cry in front of a woman,” Hegan deadpans. “I can cry at the end of a romantic comedy and say, ‘It’s just my allergies.’”

Next Page: Treating Eye Allergies

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