My eyes are watering, itchy, burning, red and swollen. Like many others, I am experiencing spring eye allergy symptoms in response to grass pollens in the air.
Why do I feel like scratching my eyes?
The eyes may itch and water in response to the body’s release of histamines when exposed to allergens, such as grass pollens. The same type of response may make your nose run.
Simple measures to try before reaching for medication
•Keep your home free of pet dander, dust and other triggers.
•Stay indoors when pollen is high. (Pollen counts are highest between 5-10 a.m.)
•Close windows in your home and when traveling by car.
Avoidance didn’t work. Now what?
Inexpensive and simple treatments to try include cold compresses and eye washes such as artificial tears which can help dilute the allergens in your eyes. Many people get relief from oral antihistamines, available over the counter (OTC) or by prescription.
What about medicated eye drops?
Many types of medicated eyes drops are available, both OTC and by prescriptions. As with all medications, there are pros and cons. Eye drop may contain antihistamines and/or decongestants, or mast cell stabilizers that treat inflammation.
Decongestant eye drops with or without antihistamines clear up redness by making the blood vessels in the eyes shrink but can only be used for short periods of time. With extended use, the eyes become dependent on the drops and symptoms actually worsen.
Mast cell stabilizers, available by prescription, treat redness and swelling but need to be used before exposure to allergens and are not as helpful when on an “ as needed” basis.
Nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory eye drops may be prescribed to decrease swelling, inflammation and other symptoms. Individuals with aspirin sensitivity cannot use these.
Prescription corticosteroid eye drops provide quick relief but have side effects, such as increased inner eye pressure which may lead to glaucoma, cataract formation, eye infections or damage to optic nerve.
Preservative-free eye drops are available for those sensitive to preservative ingredients. These come in individual dose packages that must be used up once opened otherwise bacteria may grow. Single dose packages are often more expensive.