Eye Health: Protecting Your Eyes During Allergy Season

Last Editorial Review: 12/19/2007
The Cleveland Clinic

For some people, it seems like every season is allergy season. In the spring, it is the tree and flower pollen; with summer's arrival the tree and flower pollen are joined by grass pollen; and in the fall it is weed pollen. The result? Red itchy eyes that also burn and sting. For some allergy sufferers in warmer parts of the country, these eye-aggravating allergies can be a bother for as many as 10 months out of the year.

How do I protect my eyes during allergy season?

Because seasonal allergies are most often caused by plant life that releases pollen into the air, they can be difficult to avoid. Nevertheless, there are some approaches that you can take to help lessen your allergy symptoms:

  • Pay attention to the pollen reports. Your local weather channel or weather-related Internet site regularly gives the pollen counts for your area of the country. When pollen counts are high, restrict your outdoor activities when possible.

  • Have someone else mow your grass when possible.

  • Limit your exposure to wooded areas.

  • Close your doors and windows and use your air conditioning during warmer months. However, because allergens are spread through the air, they can be circulated throughout the house through the air conditioning's filter. If you have severe reactions to pollens, the use of air conditioning may not be wise if flare-ups are severe during this time.

  • Consider purchasing a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. These filter systems are very effective at removing allergens from the air in your room or house.

Taking these preventive measures is often just the first step to controlling seasonal allergies. For many people, the next step is discussing with their doctor possible allergy drugs to help relieve their symptoms. There are many effective medications to help eliminate allergy symptoms, and by making a trip to the doctor for an eye allergy evaluation, he or she can prescribe the correct medication to help prevent irritation or itchiness from occurring.

Over-the-counter allergy drugs can also be purchased to help an eye allergy sufferer with mild symptoms. The medicine is usually less expensive than prescription medications and can clear up mild irritation. Eye drops are also available that can help wash out the eyes. The drops usually contain antihistamines and decongestants that help calm eye allergies.

Regardless of whether your medication is over-the-counter or prescribed, be sure to follow the directions exactly as stated by the label or by your doctor. If you have any questions about your medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute.

Edited by Ellen N. Reich, MD, September 25, 2007.

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