Hay fever affects one in five people in the UK, and when symptoms flare up it can really ruin your day. Sore, irritated eyes are often one of the most problematic symptoms of hay fever. When pollen comes into contact with the eyes they can become inflamed, itchy and watery due to the development of allergic conjunctivitis. This can go on to obscure your vision and cause a huge amount of discomfort.
As hay fever affects so many people around this time of year I often get asked how to manage the irritation and effects on the eyes. Below are some of my tips to help battle through hay fever season.
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is a very common allergic reaction to pollen. It occurs at particular times of the year such as spring and summer when flowers and plants blossom. With the atmosphere full of pollen those who are allergic are sure to suffer.
Hay fever is also known as seasonal rhinitis, differing from perennial rhinitis which although can have similar symptoms occurs all year round. Rhinitis is the inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose, caused by a viral infection or an allergic reaction.
What are the symptoms of hay fever?
Symptoms can vary from individual to individual with some suffering more severely than others. Sneezing due to a blocked and runny nose is one of the more common symptoms, while headaches and blocked sinuses are some of the more painful ones.
Another common combination of symptoms that might lead to day to day struggles are itchy, watery and red eyes; all signs of allergic conjunctivitis. The inflammatory nature of hay fever can also affect your vision, becoming blurry and cloudy from the irritation experienced at the eyes surface. When hay fever is at its worst, it may even become hard to open your eyes due to the swelling of the whites of the eyes and lid margins.
How To manage hay fever eye symptoms
Antihistamine eye drops reduce inflammatory symptoms such as watery eyes, redness and itchy eyes and lids. They work by simply inhibiting the physiological effects of histamine, a compound released by cells in response to allergens, in this case pollen.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the pollen count throughout the Spring and Summer months; this way you can better prepare yourself. Using over the counter remedies such as Piriton and Loratadine during the hay fever months could also be of benefit. Piriton is an allergy tablet containing chlorphenamine maleate which helps to control symptoms caused by hay fever. Loratadine similarly is an antihistamine that suppresses the inflammatory response.
Keeping your eyes lubricated using good quality eye drops will help to relieve itching and dryness caused by hay fever. The main and most important benefit of using lubricating eye drops is to help flush out any allergens on the eyes surface.
Lid hygiene is another important factor when trying to combat the effects of hay fever on the eyes. It’s highly recommended that you cleanse your lashes regularly using medicated ophthalmic wipes to remove the stagnant pollen build up. The key is to keep the affected area as clean as possible. On top of this, rubbing your eyes in response to the itchy feeling will only exacerbate the symptoms so, although difficult, try to refrain from doing so.
Another very simple tip which can often make a huge difference is regularly showering and changing clothing. Pollen sticks to your clothes, skin and hair which unfortunately means that even if you’re indoors trying to avoid all the pollen in the air it may very well be with you anyway. Therefore, showering and changing your clothes as often as possible can help to remove pollen from the bodies surfaces.
Lastly, an easy tip to help manage the aggravating symptoms is to wear sunglasses which not only help to keep the suns rays out but provide a barrier to reduce the amount of pollen getting in to your eyes. The same benefits apply if you are a spectacle wearer.
|Sona Thakerar is an award-winning optometrist, McOptom and Sports Vision Practitioner and founder of Aston & Woods Eyecare, an opticians that combines a premium approach to clinical eyecare, alongside a high-end eyewear offering. Visit Astonandwoods.com for more information.