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If you're one of the 50 million Americans with seasonal allergies, you're familiar with itchy, red, and watery eyes. Allergic conjunctivitis is a common condition that occurs when your eyes react to something that irritates them. They release a protective substance called a histamine which causes swelling and that irritated, burning sensation. Allergies aren't confined to spring or fall, either! Ragweed begins blooming in August, rainy springs cause mold to grow through the summer, and pollen is still ever-present. Taking care of your eyes during the summer is just as important as in other seasons.
The symptoms of eye allergies are visible and obvious:
Allergens in the air are largely responsible for eye allergies, but other allergens may play a part. These may include:
This seems obvious, right? But avoiding airborne allergens can be difficult, especially during seasons where pollen counts are high. Here are some tips:
Eyewear: Sunglasses and eyeglasses, especially wraparound ones, can help protect your eyes from allergens. Eyeglasses with photochromic lenses can reduce the effect of light on eyes that are sensitive to it.
Contacts: Use daily disposable contacts or consider wearing eyeglasses during allergy seasons. Contacts can attract and accumulate allergens. If you have a regular pair of contacts, clean them often with a preservative-free solution.
Lubricating Eyedrops: These drops, available without a prescription, can wash allergens from your eyes as well as moisturize them, relieving itchiness and redness. Preservative-free drops are available for sensitive eyes.
Decongestants: These help shrink swollen nasal passages, and also shrink blood vessels on the white (schlera) of the eye, which reduces red eyes. Decongestant eye drops are available.
Antihistamines: The body's allergic response causes the release of histamines, which dilate blood vessels. They're responsible for your itchy, watery eyes. Antihistamines block histamines from attaching to cells. Antihistamine eye drops are available.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): You probably use these for headaches and body pain, but NSAIDs reduce inflammation and are useful for relieving swollen eyes.
Be sure to consult your doctor or other qualified health care professional before taking any medication, supplement, or beginning any health regimen.