Q: I moved to the northeast and find the tree pollen in spring bothers my eyes incredibly. They burn, itch, blur, and I get nasty conjunctivitis. Is there such a thing as “eye allergy” — and how do I control it?
Dr. Bassett: In spring trees including birch, maple/box elder, alder and oak release their pollen, a known source for bothersome symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose and congestion. But this pollen also triggers the symptoms of eye itchiness, weathering and redness.
Current estimates suggest that at least 20 percent of the populations suffers from some form of eye allergy, or allergic conjunctivitis. In fact, in the 2012 Allergies in America study, eye complaints among allergy sufferers were among the most vexing. Yet many don’t appreciate the need for effective treatment for eye allergy.
My eye allergy action plan begins with a greater understanding of exact seasonal triggers. Then strategies for control include:
• cleaning and changing your air-conditioning filter on a regular basis;
• checking the pollen count before prolonged outdoor activities; pre-treating to reduce symptoms with OTC and prescription allergy medicines, including anti-allergy eye drops such as Pazeo, Pataday or Zaditor;
• wearing big sunglasses on windy and high pollen days;
• and avoiding sticky hair gels that are a pollen magnet. I’d also speak to your allergist about long-term strategies to put your miserable allergy symptoms “in remission,” such as allergy injections or sublingual therapy.
Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergist and asthma specialist, is the Medical Director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York (www.allergyreliefnyc.com; Twitter @allergyreliefny). He is also on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.