An allergic reaction is your body's overreaction to a substance
it thinks will do harm. For example, dust or pet dander is harmless to
most people, but some people's immune system recognizes it as harmful
and responds by trying to eliminate it from the body. This overreaction
causes the common red, itching and tearing eyes associated with ocular
allergies. See also allergic conjunctivitis.
Many allergens in the air come in contact with your eyes and nose. Common
allergens include: pollen, mold, dust and pet dander.
· Itchy, red, tearing, or swollen eyes
· Runny nose
· Difficulty breathing
· Itchy nose, mouth or throat
· Headache from sinus congestion
The best "treatment" is to avoid what's causing your allergy,
but this is sometimes impossible. Keep your home free of pet dander, dust,
and stay inside with the air conditioner on when a lot of pollen is in
the air. Air conditioners filter out some of the allergens.
If you're not sure what's causing your allergy, or you're not having any
luck avoiding it, your next step will probably be medications to alleviate
Eyedrops are available as simple eye washes, or they may have one or more
active ingredients such as antihistamines, decongestants or mast cell
stabilizers. Antihistamines relieve many symptoms caused by airborne allergens,
such as itchy, watery eyes. Decongestants clear up redness and nasal congestion.
They are, however, not the best medication for long term ocular use because
the ocular surface can become dependent on the drops and look more red
for a period of time after discontinuing the drops. Some products have
ingredients that act as mast cell stabilizers, which alleviate redness
and swelling. Mast cell stabilizers are similar to antihistamines, but
while antihistamines are known for their immediate relief, mast cell stabilizers
are known for their long-lasting relief and need to be used consistently
for weeks to maintain their effectiveness.
Antihistamines and decongestants are available in pill form and
are occasionally necessary for more severe cases. Your optometrist may
need to prescribe a combination of eye drops and prescription oral medication
(pills) to more completely relieve the allergic symptoms.
This treatment involves an allergy specialist injecting you with small
amounts of the allergen to help you gradually build up an immunity to
For more information, visit http://www.aaaai.org/nab/default.stm