Don’t Let Allergies Ruin Your Summer
Summer has finally come to stay in Montana! Warmer weather and sunny days are usually greeted with shouts of joy by most of us after our long winter months. However, spring and summer can mean weeks of itchy eyes and runny noses for many allergy sufferers.
What are allergic reactions?
Allergic reactions occur when your body reacts to a substance it perceives as harmful, even though it may not be. For example, dust that is harmless to most people can cause watery, itchy eyes, sneezing and congestion for allergic individuals. About 30 to 50% of us have allergy symptoms which affect our eyes. Common signs of allergy include red, swollen or itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing and coughing, itchy nose, mouth or throat, headache from sinus congestion, and fatigue.
Many allergens are in the air where they come in contact with your eyes and nose. These airborne allergens include pollen, mold, dust and pet dander. Adverse reactions to cosmetics or medications such as medicated eye drops may also cause eye allergies. Some people are allergic to the preservatives in eye drops used to lubricate dry eyes, necessitating the use of preservative-free lubricating drops.
Allergy Treatment Options
The most common treatment is to avoid the allergen as much as possible. If you’re allergic to pet dander but love that pet, keep your pets off the furniture and keep your home as free of pet dander and dust as possible. If you’re allergic to pollen, stay inside with the air conditioner on when pollen counts are high or wear wraparound sunglasses while outside and drive your car with the windows closed.
Schedule and Eye Appointment
If you’re not sure what is causing your eye allergies or you can’t avoid the allergen, make an appointment with your eye doctor to determine the best method of treatment. There are different types of medications that treat allergy symptoms.
Some eye drops or eye washes contain antihistamines that treat watery eyes, others contain mast cell stabilizers that inhibit inflammation, and some contain decongestants to clear up redness. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) eye drops may also be prescribed to decrease swelling, inflammation and other symptoms associated with allergic conjunctivitis.
Antihistamines, decongestants and mast cell stabilizers are available in pill form, but pills don’t bring relief as quickly as eye drops or eye gels. Your eye doctor can best determine which medication or combination of medications you need to get the greatest relief.
Options for Contact Lens Wearers
Allergy season can also affect contact lens wearers. Airborne allergens can get on your lenses and cause discomfort. They can also stimulate excessive production of natural substances in your tears which can bind to your contact and become uncomfortable. Ask your eye doctor which eye drops or medications can relieve your symptoms and keep your contact lenses clean. Certain drops can discolor or damage certain lenses, so be sure to ask your eye doctor before trying out a new brand.
Another option is to use daily disposable contact lenses and discard them nightly. Because the lenses are replaced so frequently, they are unlikely to develop irritating deposits that cause or increase allergy-related discomfort.
Bottom line, all this is actually good news. Even if you have seasonal allergies, you can still enjoy the warmer weather and longer days of spring and summer. Check with your eye doctor to see what medications you need to stay symptom-free all year.