What to do when spring is in the air
Buzzing bees, blossoming flowers, green blades of grass… these are the classic visions that herald spring. But those aren’t the only signs of the changing seasons. For many people, itchy eyes, swollen eyelids, sneezing, and a runny nose also make an appearance this time of year. That’s because the prettiest parts of spring also release an abundance of pollen and allergens into the air – triggering the start of spring allergies.
Spring allergies affect the eyes too
Although nasal symptoms tend to get most of the attention associated with hay fever (another name for spring allergies), in reality ocular irritation is pretty common. Millions of people in the United States are treated for eye symptoms due to spring allergies, particularly when the level of grass pollen is high. And unfortunately for anyone in Washington, D.C. who is sensitive to allergens, our lovely green city is a hotspot for grass and tree pollen!
The most common ocular symptoms of spring allergies are:
- Swollen, puffy eyelids
- Watery eyes
- Sensitivity to light
Also called “allergic conjunctivitis”, annoying eye allergies lead many of our patients to seek eye care at Washington Eye Doctors. What is the best treatment to soothe your symptoms? And is there anything you can do to get rid of your spring allergies? Our eye doctor shares some tips on how to recognize and relieve your painful peepers.
Stay away from your spring allergies trigger
Be on the defensive – avoid allergens. This is by and large the most important action you can take to prevent your eye irritation. However, since grass and tree pollen are the most common triggers, you’re likely scratching your head (and your itchy eyes) as you wonder how you can successfully avoid these widespread, airborne irritants. Before you lock yourself in your bedroom and wait for the cold weather to blow in, our Washington, D.C. optometrist has some easier solutions to recommend:
- Keep your windows closed when the pollen count is high. Use a/c in your home, office, and car in order to keep the air around you clean and clear.
- Don’t rub your eyes! Rubbing your itchy eyes is a great way to spread the pollen all over, exacerbating your symptoms.
- When outdoors, wear glasses and sunglasses to block pollen from contact with your eyes.
- Don’t wear your contact lenses! Contacts can make spring allergies worse for your eyes, because the pollen sticks and accumulates on them.
- As soon as you go indoors, rinse your eyes with saline drops and wash your hands well.
- Use a damp mop, not a broom, to clean your floors. Dry sweeping will only push any pollen that’s settled back up into the air.
When spring allergies strike, our Washington, D.C. eye doctor offers treatment
Some eye allergy symptoms can be managed well with over-the-counter drugs, especially if you have a mild case. Artificial tears eye drops are a great frontline treatment to keep your eye surface clean. Decongestant eye drops may also help, but use them sparingly and with caution – prolonged use can worsen your condition.
Antihistamine eye drops, mast cell stabilizer eye drops, corticosteroid eye drops, and NSAID eye drops are all accepted short-term treatments for ocular irritation caused by spring allergies. Because these are all prescription drugs, you will need to visit our Washington, D.C. eye doctor (and possibly an allergist too) to determine the best medication for your individual condition.
While some non-sedating oral histamines may also be effective at alleviating your itchy eyes and irritation, they can also dry out your eyes and make the irritation worse. If your spring allergies are extreme and get in the way of normal life, immunotherapy allergy shots or tablets may offer long-term relief.