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Laura Gesicki-Wood, MD
The Eyes Have It How To Keep Pollen From Making Your Eyes Itchy, Irritated, and Red
Accredited Allergy Center of Springfield

The Eyes Have It How To Keep Pollen From Making Your Eyes Itchy, Irritated, and Red

When physicians talk about seasonal allergies, they often refer to it as seasonal rhinitis, an inflammation of the nasal passages. But for many seasonal allergy fighters, pollen irritates their eyes as much as or more than it irritates their nose. These people have allergic conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the membrane on the back of the eyelids and front of the eyeballs.

People with allergic conjunctivitis may be especially miserable in spring and early summer from grass pollen exposure. Ragweed pollen, which begins to spread later in the summer, is also quite irritating to the eyes.

Even though people blink an average of 15,000 times a day, it is nearly impossible to avoid pollen exposure during the spring, summer and fall. National Jewish Medical and Research Center pediatrician Dan Atkins, MD, recommends several steps that you can take to reduce pollen's irritating effect on your eyes.

Wash your hands. During high allergy season, pollen is everywhere. You get it on your hands opening a car door, running your hands through your hair, or touching other outdoor surfaces. If you rub your eyes with those pollencoated hands, they will only get more irritated, itchy, and red. Frequently washing your hands can reduce the amount of pollen that gets in your eyes.

Use saline rinses or artificial tears. These can provide significant relief by removing or diluting the pollen grains in the eyes.

Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses can reduce the amount of pollen that gets in the eyes by deflecting the wind carrying it toward you.

Close the windows and use the air conditioner. This can reduce pollen floating in the air, both in the house and in the car.

Apply cold compresses. A bag of frozen peas or a moist washcloth that has been placed briefly in the freezer can reduce both itching and swelling when put on the eyes.

Take medications. Several medications can also help people whose eyes bear the brunt of their seasonal allergies. For people with mild symptoms, oral antihistamines can prevent irritation of both the eyes and the nose. For those with more severe allergic conjunctivitis, physicians can prescribe a number of medications that can be applied directly to the eyes. These include topical antihistamines, vasoconstrictors, mast-cell stabilizers, topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and topical corticosteroids. You should consult your doctor to learn what would work best for you.

You should also remember to take these medications continuously throughout the pollen season, rather than intermittently. Most of them work best if taken before the allergen exposure, rather than after the eyes have already become irritated.

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