Hayfever — ‘Tis the Season!!       

Sneezing, snuffling, and itchy eyes. It’s summer. Or the part of it that many find to be a real pain. For many seasonal allergy sufferers, pollen is the most common eye irritant, with potential for allergic conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the membrane on the back of the eyelids and front of the eyeball. Eye allergies often run in families and occur due to processes associated with other types of allergic responses.

Symptoms and signs of hayfever include itchy, red eyes and swollen eyelids; runny nose; sneezing and coughing; itchy nose, mouth or throat; headache from sinus congestion; and fatigue and lack of sleep.

The most common cause of eye allergies in Ireland is grass pollen, which peaks in early summer, and ragweed pollen which peaks later in the summer.

There are some simple steps that allergy sufferers can take to reduce pollen’s irritating effect on their eyes:

  • Wash your hands; shower down from head to toe: During 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 pollen-coated hands, they will only get more irritated. Washing your hands frequently can reduce the amount of pollen that gets in your eyes or taking a shower from head to toe after being out on sports fields.
  • Wear sunglasses: Sunglasses can reduce the amount of pollen that gets in the eyes by deflecting the wind carrying it toward you. Make sure you wear wraparound sunglasses to help shield your eyes from allergens, and drive with your windows closed during allergy season.
  • Close the windows: This can reduce pollen floating in the air both in the house and in the car. Trying to escape the summer heat by sleeping with open windows and a fan might provide temporary relief from heat, but it can cause allergy sufferers to have stuffy noses, itchy eyes and sneezing throughout the night. Pollination may occur at all hours of the day or night, so people with hay fever and other allergies should close their homes and use an air conditioner to filter allergens. Using a fan to keep cool may actually add to the problem by keeping allergens suspended and circulating through the air.
  • Dry your clothes and bed linen indoors; while it’s great drying weather, the pollen will fall onto clothes and bedlinen such as pillow cases while hanging on your clothes line, only for you to rest your head on a pollen coated pillow later on.
  • Apply cold compresses: A bag of frozen peas or a moist washcloth that has been placed briefly in the freezer can reduce itching when put over the eye or try the Ice Doctor Cold Compress.
  • Use saline rinses or artificial tears: These can provide significant relief by removing or diluting the pollen grains in the eye.
  • Use medications: Several medications can also help people whose eyes bear the brunt of their seasonal allergies.

Eye Allergies and Contact Lenses

Even if you are generally a successful contact lens wearer, allergy season can make your contacts uncomfortable. Airborne allergens can get on your lenses, causing discomfort. Allergens also can stimulate the excessive production of natural substances in your tears, which can bind to your contacts and cause blurred vision and additional discomfort. In recent times, however, studies are showing that contact lenses can be beneficial for some sufferers by forming a barrier on the eye to pollen.  

Pollen maps can help you determine when allergens are present. You can check out pollen information for Ireland on http://www.met.ie/forecasts/pollen.asp Ask your optometrist about eye drops that can help relieve your symptoms and keep your contact lenses clean. Certain drops can discolor or damage certain lenses, it makes sense to ask first before trying out a new brand. Another alternative is daily disposable contact lenses, which are discarded nightly. Because you replace them so frequently, these types of lenses are unlikely to develop irritating deposits that can build up over time and cause or heighten allergy-related discomfort.  In recent times, however, studies are showing that contact lenses can be beneficial for some sufferers by forming a barrier on the eye to pollen.  

So if allergies run in your family,  if your eyes often itch, particularly during spring pollen season, if you have you ever been diagnosed with ‘pink eye’ (conjunctivitis), if you are allergic to certain animals, such as cats, then you may have eye allergies.

At Nichola C Kennedy Optometrist, Kilcullen we stock a wide range of wrap-around sunglasses ideal for hayfever sufferers as well as the Ice-Doctor Anti-inflammatory Cold Compress which is fantastic for reducing the symptoms of hayfever, allergies, swelling, headaches and puffy eyes.  

Make an appointment with us to determine the best course of action for your individual eye problems.