COULD YOU BE ALLERGIC TO SPRING?
It’s that time of the year, and you're ready for all the fun that warmer weather brings – picnics in the park, weekend hikes, BBQ’s… But you’ve been waking up every day, feeling like Snow White’s friend, Sneezy - and rubbing your eyes into a hot mess was not quite the kind of summer heat you had in mind.
Yep – it’s Spring, and with the changing of seasons come runny noses, those dreaded sneezes… and for some us, swollen, runny, red, and itchy eyes too! The technical term for what we know as “hay fever” in the eyes, is called seasonal conjunctivitis – meaning the conjunctiva, the tissue that covers the inside of eyelids, as well as the white part of the eyeball is inflamed. Allergic conjunctivitis in particular, is caused by allergens and irritants, such as pollen, dust and mould.
Although there are plenty causes for allergies, the biggest Spring allergy trigger, and the reason for discomfort at certain times in the year, is pollen.
Pollen is tiny, almost microscopic grains that are released from trees, grasses, and weeds in order to fertilise other plants. When pollen particles are inhaled, or enter the eye, by someone who is hypersensitive to pollen, it triggers an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions happen when the body mistakenly identifies the pollen as something dangerous and, in order to protect itself, releases antibodies to fight against the “danger”.
Along with antibodies, the body also produces histamines - chemicals that enter the bloodstream, triggering the typical symptoms that are associated with allergies. Which explains why you are having sneezing fits with tearing red eyes.
But how do you know that what is bothering you, is in fact hay fever?
Be on the lookout for these signs and symptoms:
- Itchy eyes
- Burning eyes
- Watery eyes
- Puffy, red eyelids
- Intolerance to your make-up or contact lenses
- Other “allergic symptoms” such as a blocked or runny nose, itchy throat or sneezing
While there is no “cure”, and you might feel like it’s holding you back from enjoying the great weather, there are certain steps you can take to lessen the effect, and offer slight relief.
Some top tips our OCULA Optometrists recommend include:
Change contacts. If you wear contact lenses, consider switching to daily disposable contact lenses, or alternatively wear your glasses while your allergies are acting up.
Take anti-allergy eye drops. Antihistamines, or allergy medication can help prevent (and offer relief from), itchiness, swelling, and redness. The most effective antihistamines for allergic conjunctivitis is in the form of eye drops, as it provides the medication directly to the area of inflammation. Over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops can provide temporary relief. However, for the best results all Spring and Summer long, consider regularly using a preventer / antihistamine combination eye drop, such as Zaditen.
Don’t rub! Rubbing itchy eyes can cause mast cell degranulation, which maintains the allergic cycle and should be avoided.
Lubricant eye drops are your friend. Lubricating eye-drops or “artificial tears” can help flush out pollen, and can also be refrigerated, offering additional relief.
Be cool and use a cold compress. Apply cold compress, cool tea bag or eye mask to help soothe itchy or red eyes.
If you're really struggling, let us help. If the above tips and tricks aren't providing enough relief, there are more potent treatment options available by prescription from our optometrists. To speak to an optometrist about the best antihistamine eye drops for you, book an appointment here.
Other tricks that can help:
Use eye protection. We’re not saying you have to wear construction grade goggles – but wear glasses or sunglasses when you venture outside. This will help to keep pollen out of your eyes and will especially bring relief on windy days. You can also consider wearing a mask while you potter in the garden to prevent pollen from being inhaled.
Take a shower. Take a shower, wash your hair, and remove eye makeup at the end of the day. During the course of the day, pollens could have settled on your hair, your eye make-up or body. Prevent prolonged exposure by removing it before falling into bed.
Stay indoors when you can. Try and stay inside on windy days, and keep windows closed early mornings when pollen shedding is at its highest. You can still be affected indoors, so make sure your air filters in your home or office are cleaned regularly, and mop, rather than just dry sweep when cleaning.
Experiencing any of the above symptoms, but still not sure what the best course of action is for you? For an in-detail eye assessment, or for our Optometrists to recommend specific medication, book here, or contact the OCULA team closest to you so they may assist.