Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on November 02, 2021

Knowledge Is Power

1 / 14

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.

What Are the Symptoms

2 / 14

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.

Why Are My Eyes Red?

3 / 14

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.

Take a Hands-Off Approach

4 / 14

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.

Cover-Up Tips

5 / 14

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.

Outdoor Triggers

6 / 14

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.

Indoor Triggers

7 / 14

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. Make sure to also use preservative-free artificial tears to wash out any allergens that may be getting into your eyes.


Mop Away Mites

8 / 14

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.

Go on Mold Patrol

9 / 14

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.

Try Some Eye Drops

10 / 14

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.

Oral Medicines Can Help, Too

11 / 14

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.

Consider Allergy Shots

12 / 14

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.

Create an Action Plan

13 / 14

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.

1 / 14

Show Sources

(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.