Unfortunately, for seasonal allergy sufferers, sometimes it feels like all they see are clouds of pollen blowing in the wind. While pollen allergies are associated with early spring, runny noses and itchy eyes can be miserable throughout the summer and into fall. Plants and trees may continue to pollinate through autumn. Here is what you need to know about allergies and your eyes.
Five Things You Need to Know About Eye Allergies
1) What are allergies?
Allergies occur when your body overreacts to foreign pathogens. Seasonal pollen enters through your nose, eyes, and mouth, so your body will release histamines to fight it. Overactive histamines are what cause your runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes.
There are many plants that release allergy-inducing pollen, including:
- Oak, cedar, birch, and pine trees
- Wildflowers and flowering shrubbery
- Weeds such as dandelions, ragweed, and sagebrush
- Grasses - many North Carolinians are allergic to grasses
While we all look forward to the end of a long, cold winter, the earlier spring begins, the longer the pollen season will last.
2) What effect do common allergy treatments have on your eyes?
Seasonal pollen allergies are typically treated with antihistamines that stop your body from releasing as many histamines. Those treatments can come with their own share of uncomfortable side effects. Common side effects from antihistamines include:
- Drowsiness is by far the most common side effect. Some allergy medications are famous for making you very sleepy.
- Dry mouth and dry eyes. Antihistamines can make you feel dehydrated. This can make you feel thirsty and your eyes feel itchy.
- Dizziness and vertigo.
- Blurred vision and double vision.
- Constipation and difficulty urinating.
Unfortunately, if your eyes are already dry and irritated, antihistamines can actually make them feel worse. You may want to use eye drops, but it is important to speak with your optometrist before introducing anything to your eyes.
3) Can you avoid allergies?
One way to find relief from itchy, dry eyes is by trying to stay away from the things that cause allergies. There are a few ways you can try to avoid allergy triggers.
Pollen Count: You can check the pollen forecast much like the weather. When the pollen count is high, you can try to remain indoors with windows closed.
Know Your Allergy: Not all pollen is created equal. You may be more allergic to a certain type of pollen. If you know you are especially prone to experience itchy eyes from oak or ragweed, you can try to avoid the outdoors on those days.
Vacuum Daily: You may need to vacuum every day or even twice per day to deal with the pollen inside your home.
Wash Clothes: You may need to increase your laundry days to make sure you clean out the pollen that collects in your clothes.
Correct Mold: In addition to pollen, mold spores can be a source of itchy eyes. If you feel like you get no relief from your pollen allergies even indoors, you may have mold inside your home.
4) How can you protect your eyes during allergy season?
It is vital to protect your eyes and vision from damage. If you suffer from season allergies, you should follow these steps:
- Wear Eye Protection: Wear sunglasses and safety goggles, especially when you are outside doing yard work or playing sports.
- Avoid Doing Yardwork: If you can, avoid doing yard work on days with high pollen counts. When your eyes are especially itchy, skip mowing the lawn.
- Keep Windows Closed: As delightful as the temperatures can be at night during the summer, for allergy sufferers, it is important to keep your windows closed.
- Pay Attention to Symptoms: If your eyes never seem to recover from being itchy, or you start to experience vision-related symptoms such as blurred or double vision, loss of vision, etc., you need to see your optometrist immediately.
- Schedule an Eye Exam: It is always a good idea to discuss what you are experiencing with your trusted eye care professional.
If you are ready to schedule your next eye exam, Asheville Vision and Wellness is here to help. We have been western North Carolina’s trusted optometrists for over thirty years. We have experienced many allergy seasons here in Asheville. Contact the team at Asheville Vision and Wellness to schedule your next eye exam.