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Finding Relief From Eye Allergies

Do-It-Yourself Allergy Relief

The first approach to controlling eye allergies should be to limit your exposure to allergy triggers:

  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are highest, usually in mid-morning and early evening. Close the windows and run the air conditioner (window fans can draw in pollen and mold spores). If you go out, wearing eyeglasses or big sunglasses can help block pollen from your eyes. Driving? Keep the windows closed and run the air conditioner.
  • Limit your exposure to dust mites by encasing your pillows in allergen-impermeable covers. Wash bedding frequently in water that’s at least 130 F. If your mattress is more than a few years old, consider getting a new one. Old mattresses are often teeming with allergens.
  • Clean floors with a damp mop. Sweeping tends to stir up rather than get rid of allergens. Especially if a pet shares the house with you, consider replacing rugs and carpets, which trap and hold allergens, with hardwood, tile, or other flooring materials that are easier to clean. Go with blinds instead of curtains.
  • To stop mold from growing inside your home, keep the humidity under 50%.  That might mean using a dehumidifier, especially in a damp basement. If so, clean the dehumidifier regularly. Clean your kitchen and bathrooms with a bleach solution.
  • If your pet is causing your allergies, try to keep it outside as much as possible. At the very least, keep it out of your bedroom. Don't let it share your bed.
  • Don’t rub your eyes. That’s likely to make symptoms worse. Try cool compresses instead.

Allergy Medications for Eyes

What if avoiding allergy triggers isn't enough to relieve eye allergy symptoms? Over-the-counter and prescription medications can provide short-term relief of some eye allergy symptoms, while prescription treatments can provide both short- and long-term help. Remedies include:

  • Sterile saline rinses and eye lubricants can soothe irritated eyes and help flush out allergens.
  • Decongestant eye drops can curb eye redness by constricting blood vessels in the eyes. But these drops tend to sting a bit, and they don’t relieve all symptoms. What’s more, their effect tends to be short-lived, and using them for more than a few days can cause ''rebound'' eye redness. 
  • Eye drops containing ketotifen can relieve allergy symptoms for up to 12 hours. They won’t cause rebound redness even with long-term use.
  • Refrigerating eye drops may help them provide additional relief of allergy symptoms.
  • Oral antihistamines can also help. Loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec) tend to be less sedating than some older drugs, and they provide longer-lasting relief.

If these drugs aren’t enough to do the trick, a doctor can prescribe other eye drops, including combination antihistamine-mast cell stabilizers and corticosteroids. If allergies are especially severe or persistent, allergy shots (immunotherapy) can also help.

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on June 25, 2012

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