Allergic reactions, no matter how they present themselves, can be cause for concern. While allergic reactions on the skin can clear up quite easily without leaving too much damage, eye allergies are a little different.
Eye allergies are very common, but that doesn’t mean we can disregard them. Allergies that go untended can actually cause scarring on various parts of the eye! Though allergies are mostly associated with spring, they can be present whenever the seasons change. So now, with all these dry leaves falling into the streets, we’d better be prepared.
What is an Allergy and Where Does it Come From?
An allergic reaction is basically your body overreacting to otherwise harmless allergens. Some common allergens include dust, pollen, animal dander, and food. When the body is exposed to something that it thinks poses a threat, it begins to fight back.
It all begins with our white blood cells. These cells come together to create mast cells. When the body gets wind of an allergen, these mast cells release chemicals to protect your immune system.
Most of the time, allergic reactions (or overreactions) are relatively harmless. Commonly, you may experience itchiness, frequent sneezing, or redness or red bumps on the skin.
However, in some cases, your body’s reaction to an allergen can be more dangerous than the actual allergen. Someone with severe food allergies will know what we’re talking about.
For example, the most common food allergy is a peanut allergy. When it is a severe allergy, a person’s throat may close up. When their throat closes, it means that they won’t even be able to breathe. In this case, the body is actually causing more harm than good while trying to protect the immune system from something as innocent as a peanut.
As irritating as allergies are, they are really the body’s way of protecting us from harm.
Eye Allergies: Symptoms
Allergic reactions can also affect our eyes, just as much as any other body part. Chances are you’ve experienced an eye allergy at least once in your life whether you knew it or not.
However, not all allergens will affect our eyes. For example, food allergens will not cause our eyes to react. Those types of allergens tend to affect the skin and throat.
Our eyes are most affected by dust mites, mold, pet dander and pollen. During allergy season, these allergens can be a nightmare to those with sensitive eyes.
When your eyes experience an allergic reaction, you may be affected by a few different symptoms. These include itching eyes, redness in and around the eyes (on the eyelids), and overactive tear glands.
Though allergens are typically the cause of eye allergies, some eye allergies are a reaction to eye drops. Eye drops, especially the ones that are used to treat dry eyes, can contain preservatives that your eyes will recognize as unnatural. As a result, they’ll fight back against the preservatives and cause an allergic reaction.
Eye Allergies and Infections
No matter how irritating they may be, eye allergies are an easy fix. They’re also relatively mild compared to food allergies that can cause breathing problems.
That being said, eye allergies can lead to infections. The most common eye infection associated with allergies is conjunctivitis (pink eye). Allergens like dust and pollen can cause an allergic reaction, but can also cause bacteria to grow on the eye. The result: pink eye.
Luckily pink eye is very treatable, often without the need of medication. Pink eye symptoms should subside within a day or two. If they don’t, make an appointment with your eye doctor as you may need a prescription for medication or ointment.
Treating Eye Allergies Naturally
Treating your eye allergies is an easy enough feat. There is no cure for allergies, so really what you want to focus on is to find a way to minimize the symptoms. Here are three ways you can treat you eye allergies naturally and effectively.
1. Avoid Allergens
Obviously the best way to treat your eye allergy is to avoid allergens completely. Of course, we know that this isn’t always possible, but on days that you can, definitely do.
If you know your eyes are sensitive to allergens, check the pollen count in your area. Try to avoid spending time outside when the pollen count is high. If you have access to one, use an air filter to filter out any pollen that may get inside your home or place of work.
During allergy season, consider wearing wraparound sunglasses. This way, you can be sure no pollen, dust or other airborne allergens will get in your eyes.
2. Wash Your Face
If you know you’ve been exposed to allergens and can feel the symptoms coming on, you need to wash your face right away. Get all that excess pollen or dust off your face and away from your eyes. Doing this will also reduce your risk of infection.
When washing your face, be sure to not rub your eyes. When you rub your eyes, you run the risk of getting the allergens in your eyes. Gently splash some lukewarm water onto your face and then pat dry with a towel.
3. Use a Cold Compress
Cold compresses are often overlooked but they can be just the thing when you have itchy and swollen eyes. You don’t need to buy any medication or topical ointments. All you need is a running faucet and a cloth (or even a simple square of paper towel).
Wet the cloth or paper towel with some cold water. The water doesn’t have to be freezing. A more appropriate temperature to aim for is room temperature water. Place the compress over your eyes and relax for about 10 minutes. Let the compress work its magic.
Alternatively, you can use chamomile tea bags in lieu of a cloth or paper towel. We would highly recommend this for those with eye infections. The properties in the tea can help reduce the symptoms of the infection and get rid of bacteria.
Even during allergy season, you don’t need to succumb to the allergens. There are ways to minimize the effect of the allergens. Take the appropriate steps to protect your eyes!