Woman Suffering From Eye Allergies
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Knowledge Is Power

Have allergies turned your eyes red and puffy? You're not alone -- millions of Americans deal with the condition, also called allergic conjunctivitis. A cold compress can give you a quick fix before heading out in public. But for long-term relief, you need to know your triggers and treat the symptoms.

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Watery Eye
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What Are the Symptoms

They include redness in the white of your eye or inner eyelid. Other warning signs: itching, tearing, blurred vision, a burning sensation, swollen eyelids, and sensitivity to light. Eye allergies can happen alone or with nasal allergies and an allergic skin condition called eczema. The only way to know for sure if it's an allergy is to see your doctor.

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Red Watery Eye
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Why Are My Eyes Red?

Because they’re exposed to an allergen, like pet dander or pollen. Cells in your eyes called mast cells release histamine and other chemicals that cause inflammation. The result: itching, redness, and watering.

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Woman Rubbing Eyes
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Take a Hands-Off Approach

It’s hard not to touch them, but it’ll only make things worse. Rubbing causes mast cells to release more of those itch-causing chemicals. These things can help: If you wear contact lenses, take them out. Skip the eye makeup, and apply cool compresses to your eyes. Use preservative free artificial tear drops to wash allergens out of your eyes. Wash your hands often.

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Woman Putting on Lipstick
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Cover-Up Tips

Apply a hypoallergenic concealer to help hide dark circles. Don't try to cover up with heavy makeup -- it’ll only call attention to your red, watery eyes. Instead, emphasize another feature. Wear a killer shade of lipstick, for example.

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Woman With Swirling Background
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Outdoor Triggers

If your eyes well up when you go outside during spring or summer, you may have seasonal allergic conjunctivitis. Grass, tree, and weed pollens are the worst offenders. When pollen counts are high, stay indoors, keep your windows closed, and run the air conditioner. Wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.

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Eye Allergy Sources
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Indoor Triggers

Pet dander, dust mites, and molds top the list. They can cause symptoms all year long. If you have a pet, keep them out of your bedroom. Can't resist playing with Fluffy or Fido at a friend’s house? Wash your hands ASAP when you’re done. Change clothes as soon as you go home.

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Woman Mopping Kitchen Floor
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Mop Away Mites

If dust mites set off your symptoms, invest in bedding and pillowcases that keep them out. Wash sheets in hot water, and try to keep the humidity levels in your home between 30% and 50%. Clean floors with a damp mop. Don't sweep -- it stirs up allergens.

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Close Up of Mold on Wallpaper
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Go on Mold Patrol

Clean bathrooms, kitchens, and basements where mold lurks. Get a dehumidifier to help remove moisture from the air. Change the water often. Get a HEPA filter for your air conditioner, too. It can trap mold spores before they attack your eyes.

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Human Mast Cell
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Try Some Eye Drops

Most over-the-counter drops for eye allergies have the same medications used to treat nasal allergies: 

  • Antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers block the release of itch-causing chemicals your body makes.
  • Decongestant drops shrink blood vessels in your eyes, which eases redness.
  • Tear substitutes rinse away allergens and keep eyes moist.

People with certain conditions should not use some types of eye drops, so ask your doctor. Prescription options may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids.

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Woman Pouring Pills Into Hand
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Oral Medicines Can Help, Too

Antihistamines and decongestants that you take as pills, capsules, or liquids can help control your symptoms. But they can dry out your eyes and might make you sleepy. Some OTC decongestants make you dizzy or wired. If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor what to take.

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Doctor Preparing Allergy Shot
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Consider Allergy Shots

They work well for eye allergies. The shots, which your doctor might call immunotherapy, help your immune system get used to the things that trigger your symptoms. They’re usually an option for people with severe allergies. Treatment can take months, and you may still need to use medicine. Ask your doctor if they’ll work for you.

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Doctor Talking to Patient in Examination Room
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Create an Action Plan

There’s a lot you can do to take the sting out of your eye allergies. Work with your doctor to set a plan in place to stop future attacks.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 07/31/2019 Reviewed by Whitney Seltman on July 31, 2019

(1)    Isu/Stock 4B, Rolfo Rolf Brenner/Photographer's Choice
(2)    Tim Flach/Stone
(3)    Dr. P Marazzi/Photo Researchers Inc.
(4)    Image Source
(5)    Dylan Ellis/Iconica
(6)    Harri Tahvanainen/Gorilla Creative Images
(7)    Image Source, Imagemore
(8)    Peter Cade/Iconica
(9)    Eye of Science/Photo Researchers Inc
(10)   CNRI/Photo Researchers Inc
(11)   Simon Songhurst/Stone
(12)   Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc
(13)   PHANIE/Photo Researchers Inc
(14)   STOCK4B
(15)   Rob Melnychuk/Photodisc



American Academy of Family Physicians.

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

American Family Physician.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Reviewed by Whitney Seltman on July 31, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.