Hay fever is a common allergic condition that affects one in five people at some point in their life. Symptoms of hay fever can include itchy, red or watery eyes, a runny nose and sneezing.
Affected people may experience hay fever symptoms if they have an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen is fine powder released by plants and when these tiny particles come into contact with your eyes, nose, mouth and throat, they can trigger an immune response causing the body to react with swelling, irritation and inflammation.
Some people’s eyes can be particularly sensitive to pollen. Our body’s natural response is to wash the pollen out, which is why some people end up with watery eyes. They can also become red, itchy, and sticky as the immune system reacts.
There is no cure for hay fever, but many people find their symptoms improve as they get older, however can be worse in city areas due to the higher pollution level. Symptom relief treatment is available to use during the pollen season.
- Oral Anti-histamine. You should be taking these pre-season and during. However, the effect of oral treatment is typically low on the eyes.
- Cold compresses. These can relive itchy and puffy eyes by cooling the closed eyelids to help shrink the blood vessels which release the histamine.
- Soothing lubricants. Regular use of an over the counter eye drop can help soothe the eye and ‘rinse’ the histamine off the surface of eye.
- Over the counter eye medicine. Sodium cromoglycate helps stabilise the mast cells whilst an Anti-histamine drop will help directly at the site of problem. These typically need a loading dose prior season and near four times daily.
- Prescribed drops. We can prescribe you drops to combine the above with a much lower frequency of use and high effectivity.
- Steroids. More aggressive symptoms can warrant a short course of steroids.
- IPL. Intense pulse has been proven effective as reducing the inflammatory response for a longer-lasting effect.
We often find those with allergic conjunctivitis are also suffering with dry eye/MGD. Treating the dry eye at the same time or ideally prior allergy season will help you. We are uniquely placed as advanced optometrist to treat medically and with IPL.
Top tips for reducing symptoms
- Wearing wraparound sunglasses can help reduce pollen contact with the eyes.
- Switching from Contact lens use to spectacle use may help
- Shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after spending time outdoors to remove any pollen from your skin and hair.
- Dry washed clothes indoors during the peak pollen season.
- Stay indoors when the pollen count is high – different types of pollen can affect different people, although there can be a crossover. A pollen forecast can be viewed at the Met Office.
- Alcohol may increase allergy symptoms and should be avoided when your hay fever is at its worst.