Good eyewear and proper eye care can minimize itchy, watery eyes associated with hay fever and allergies.
Naturally, allergy sufferers want maximum relief in minimum time; or, better still, they want to avoid allergy attacks altogether. Doctors generally advise over-the-counter anti-histamines and nasal decongestants which relieve the majority of allergy symptoms. For serious allergy attacks or asthma patients, physicians may resort to high-powered histamine blockers or cortico-steroids. However, pills, sprays, and inhalers seldom relieve eye irritation and dryness, often the most painful and annoying among allergy complaints. Therefore, as hay fever and allergy season swings into high gear, take a few precautionary measures and stock-up on the right topical solutions for fast, effective relief.
Don’t sanitize. Desensitize.
Recent research confirms most allergists’ long-standing suspicions: Americans’ passion for germ-free environments and prescription “cold” medications, ironically, is contributing to their allergies, because it limits their opportunities for developing natural immunity to many airborne irritants. Aggressive hand-washing and cough-sneeze management make perfect sense during colds-and-flu season. Antibiotics and anti-virals, however, do not substantially reduce recovery time, and they do contribute to emergence of more virulent bacteria and viruses. Meanwhile, the body forfeits chances to develop its defenses. Allergists say routine exposure to some dust, pollen and pet hair can reduce frequency and duration of allergy attacks in many patients. They call the process “desensitization,” and studies show the process helps more than 50 percent of children over-come or outgrow their allergies; similar studies suggest more than one-fourth of adult sufferers also may benefit from desensitization. Advanced immuno-therapies also show great promise. Your allergist may inject you with small quantities of common allergens, helping your body develop its natural immunity.
Allergists caution, however, all allergy patients always and everywhere should avoid exposure to mold and volatile organic compounds. Allergists also concede eye irritation almost always requires immediate, effective relief. They recommend:
• Put-up a good defense. The simplest, most obvious solution numbers among the most effective. Invest in wrap-around eyeglasses and sunglasses, minimizing your eyes’ exposure to dust and pollen. When your physician declares new glasses “medically necessary,” they become tax deductible, taking some of the sting from the price of fashion eyewear. Similarly, replace the filters in your air conditioner and treat your carpets to a good spring cleaning. If spring melt-off and rain have contributed to exceptionally heavy pollen, invest in air purifiers for your workspace and bedroom.
• Care for your contact lenses. Generally comfortable with your contacts, you may go crazy during allergy season, because allergens and enzymes in your tears may cling to your lenses, causing serious irritation and blurred vision. Consult your physician before you try over-the-counter eye drops or contact-lens cleaners, because you may be allergic to preservatives in some solutions; mother solutions may damage or discolor your contacts. You also have another alternative. Switch from long-wearing lenses to daily disposables, which will not collect irritating deposits that aggravate your allergy symptoms.
• Over-the-counter eye-washes and drops. Both dry eyes and excessive tears result from allergens’ stimulation of your tear glands. Antihistamines, decongestants and NSAIDs reduce redness, controlling the symptom without addressing the cause. Ask your doctor about products containing mast cell stabilizers, which work almost the same way antihistamines work, but they provide more long-lasting relief. Exercise caution about using eye drops too often, because your eyes may become dependent on the vaso-constrictors in the drops. After protracted use of eye drops, stopping them may trigger “rebound hyperemia,” making the blood vessels in your eyes bigger than they were when allergens irritated them.
• Prescription eye-drops. Just as cortico-steroids rapidly, powerfully reduce nasal and lung congestion, so they quickly relieve eye irritation. However, steroids can cause serious side-effects; they can increase inner-eye pressure, damaging the optic nerve, contributing to glaucoma, or clouding the eyes’ lenses and producing cataracts. Discuss the risks and benefits with your physician, and consider safer alternatives before resorting to cortico-steroids.
Of course, tough talk and sage advice sound really good until your symptoms become so miserable you just want to embubble yourself somewhere dust and pollen cannot penetrate. Allergists reluctantly agree all the prevention and medication known to humankind sometimes cannot match the relief you find staying indoors where air conditioning filters and cools the air so you can breathe and see clearly.
Guest author Sara Roberts is a content contributor for Just Eyewear, an online retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses.