With the freezing winter weather fading away, April and May bring some familiar Hampton Roads sights: beautiful skies, birds chirping, new leaves on the trees, colorful flowers in bloom, and......POLLEN. In some areas, the pollen can drop like blankets over driveways and cars. And if you are like me and many local residents, this brings allergies in the form of red and itchy eyes. For some, the allergy season wreaks such havoc on the eyes it forces them to stay inside and avoid the outdoors all together.
For those affected by seasonal allergies, the pollen causes your body to send allergy or mast cells to the surface of the eyes where they release
histamines, which cause the itching sensation. Rubbing the eyes tends to only worsen this biological response and worsen the itching sensation. But this doesn't mean you can't get out there and enjoy one of the truly best times of year in Hampton Roads.
There are some ways to help. After spending time outdoors, be sure to take a shower and change into new clothes. Also, artificial tears such as Systane Ultra can help wash allergic material from the surface of the eye and provide temporary soothing of the eyes. A cool compress may also help calm and sooth the eyes. Also, and this may be the toughest advice to follow, try not to rub your eyes. This further exposes your eyes to pollen on your hands and exacerbates the histamine response.
Over-the-counter allergy medicines like claritin or zyrtec may be helpful in relieving nasal symptoms of seasonal allergies but they may not be as effective in controlling the redness and itchiness of the eyes. In that case, prescription allergy eye drops provide quick and effective relief. The most effective allergy eye drops are "combination" drops which act to control both the mast cells and the histamines released by those cells. Anti-inflammatory or steroid eye drops may also be indicated. Finding the right prescription eye drop necessitates a trip to the eye doctor who will fully evaluate the effects on allergies on the surface tissue of the eye.
Don't let allergies stand in your way of enjoying this beautiful spring weather, especially since, after a crazy winter, I think we've earned a great spring this year! If you would like the optometrists of Coastal Vision to help your eyes stay comfortable through allergy season, give us a call (757) 426-2020.