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The Pollen Section

All About Eye Allergies

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.’”

Treating Eye Allergies

Medication/Treatment

  • Prescription allergy eye drops such as Patanol and Zaditor stabilize the mast cells in the eye.
  • Nasal corticosteroid sprays such as Avamys help treat nose and eye symptoms.
  • Oral antihistamines such as Aerius and Reactine (Zyrtec in the U.S.) reduce overall allergy symptoms, as can leukotriene receptor antagonists such as Singulair.
  • Allergy shots can help to reduce symptoms and the immune response.

Non-Medicinal

  • Preservative-free saline drops such as Refresh and Tears Naturale can help to lubricate the eye and flush out the pollen.
  • Saline nasal sprays can help to lubricate the nose and flush out pollens, which can help reduce eye symptoms.
  • Cold compresses can soothe the itching and burning.

Lifestyle Tips

  • Avoid your allergy triggers as much as possible.
  • Stay indoors during high pollen counts: typically in the morning, and on dry, breezy days.
  • Close car windows when driving to keep pollen out.
  • Keep the bedroom as allergen-free as you can.

Sources: Allergists Dr. Harold Kim and Dr. Paul Keith

See Also

First published in Allergic Living magazine, Summer 2010 edition.
To order that issue or to subscribe, click here.

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