I don't know about you, but fall gets me excited. I love the cooler weather, football season, and of course, all things pumpkin. What I do not love, however, is my itchy eyes. From the moment the first leaves begin to fall I can almost guarantee that in a matter of days my eyes will begin to itch, water, and burn. According to the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, I am not alone. They state that approximately 50 million Americans suffer from season allergies. That's approximately 30 percent of all adults and 40 percent of all children! So, with the fall allergy season now upon us, here are my top tips to deals with the itchy, watery, irritated eyes that so many of us have.
** Don't rub your eyes : Rubbing releases histamines which in turn makes the itching worse. This is easier said than done, but excess rubbing of the eyes not only leads to more itchiness, it can also lead to things more serious such as eye infections or corneal abrasions.
** Rethink contact lenses : Allergens in the air can settle on contact lenses and accumulate on the surface of the lens. The longer you keep that lens, the more allergens accumulate, and the worse the itchiness gets. Traditional cleaning methods do not remove many of these allergens. For this reason, I recommend daily disposable contacts. Wearing daily disposables virtually eliminates the accumulation of allergens because we discard the lenses after one day. Simply switching contact lens brands eliminates all symptoms of ocular allergy in many patients. For others, wearing glasses during allergy season is another option that provides relief of symptoms. Talk to your eye doctor to determine what may work best for you.
** Medications : Both prescription and over the counter medications may be effective for treating your itchy eyes. Over the counter antihistamine drops work to help relieve occasional symptoms while prescription medications are best for a season or year long effect. Prescriptions such as mast cell stabilizes prevent the release of histamine from mast cells. It may take a few weeks to reach full effect but the results are tremendous. The prescription medication can actually keep allergy symptoms from ever occurring and thus, many patients choose to begin the mediation a few weeks before allergy season begins. Be sure to visit your eye doctor and ask which medications may work for you.
** Eliminate exposure : On days when the pollen count is high, stay indoors. Also make sure the filters in your home are changed regularly and run the air conditioner to help filter the air. If you must go outside, wrap around sunglasses can also help prevent ragweed, pollen, and other environmental allergens from reaching the surface of your eye. Keeping the windows closed while driving may also offer some benefit.
Hopefully, these tips will help you get rid of those itchy eyes for good! We treat many ocular allergies in our office and if you are suffering from itchy eyes this fall, come see us to get rid of that itch for good!
Jacqueline Clark , O.D.