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Laura Gesicki-Wood, MD
Eye Allergy
Accredited Allergy Center of Springfield

Eye Allergy

Eye Allergy

Millions of Americans suffer from the symptoms of eye allergies, which are common and may be very disabling. This common condition is called allergic conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis may occur alone or along with nasal allergy symptoms such as sneezing and stuffy nose. People who are more likely to develop an eye allergy develop symptoms when their eye comes in contact with an allergen. This is an allergic reaction, not just getting dust or something else in the eye. An allergen is a foreign substance in the air that causes or triggers (sets off) an abnormal reaction in the eye. The allergic reaction releases chemicals, such as histamine, and causes the following symptoms usually in both eyes

Itching (most common symptom)




What allergens trigger
an eye allergy?

Allergens causing these symptoms are present indoors and outdoors. You may be allergic to either type. The most common outdoor allergens (called seasonal) are grass, trees and weeds. They are the most common cause of eye allergies. The most common indoor allergens (called perennial) are pet hair or dander, dust mites and molds.

How do you treat the allergic eye?

The first treatment is environmental control.

For seasonal eye allergies

Stay indoors when pollen and mold counts are highest

Shower and shampoo after playing or working outside

If possible, keep car and house windows closed using air conditioning

For perennial eye allergies

Keep furry pets out of the bedroom and out of the house if possible

Cover pillows and mattresses with airtight covers

Wash bedding and stuffed toys weekly in hot water (130 degrees)

Check areas in the home for mold and treat with fungicide or water and bleach solution

Keep humidity in home below 50%

Other things you can do

Cold compresses to eyes help reduce swelling

Dont rub eyes as this can release more chemicals and cause more itching

Wash hands frequently

Avoid wearing contact lenses until symptoms are gone

Medication Treatment

A prescription for topical antihistamines and/or mast cell stabilizers is the most effective. These medications are applied directly to the eye. They stop the release of the chemicals that cause symptoms.

Over-the-counter antihistamines may relieve itching, but in some people may dry the eyes and cause more itching

Over-the-counter artificial tear-drops dilute the allergens and may relieve itching. Refrigerated eye medications are more soothing.

Always consult your healthcare provider to make sure that the itchy eye is caused by an allergy. There are other diseases of the eye, so you will want to make sure you are receiving the proper treatment.

If the itchy, red, watery eyes continue after you try all the other actions listed above, it may be time to consult an allergist/immunologist. The allergist/immunologist may recommend allergy shots.

This is a process that gradually helps your body build up a normal protection against the allergens that are causing your eye symptoms.

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