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Get ready for itchy, red and watery eyes this spring. Thanks to these seasonal allergies, our eyes become inflamed from an allergic reaction to substances like mold, dander and other airborne allergens. This type of allergic reaction is referred to as allergic conjunctivitis, where the membrane that covers the inside of the eyelids and the eyeball (conjunctiva) become irritated and inflamed, due to none other than the allergens. It’s estimated that more than 20 percent of the United States population suffers from allergic conjunctivitis. So how can you deal with those irritated eyes all spring without losing your mind? Here are six ways to manage your pesky spring allergies:
You can reduce your pollen exposure by limiting your time outdoors. Staying inside during the early mornings when pollen counts are at their highest can help reduce your pollen exposure, and because pollen travels, staying inside when it’s windy out helps too. Additionally, limit your exposure on mornings that are especially warm and dry – these will usually be the highest pollen count days. When you do go outside, make sure you wear glasses or sunglasses to keep the pollen out of your eyes. Every little bit helps.
Allergens aren’t just outside – they can be inside, too. It’s important to take precautions, and make a few changes around the house so that allergens don’t get trapped inside. To prevent allergies from coming in, shut all the windows and use an air conditioner instead. When coming back inside from a day out, take off your shoes at the door to make sure the allergens stay outside – mention this to your guests, too, when you have people over. After taking off your shoes, head on upstairs to take a shower, washing your hair and changing into new clothes after. Vacuuming and cleaning your floors often will also help trap allergen particles like pet dander and dust mites, reducing the exposure of indoor allergens even more.
Diet and exercise could also help fight spring allergies, since both are known to boost immune systems. Exercise combined with a diet filled with healthy foods such as nuts, fruits, and fish will ultimately put your body in top condition, and may help you build a small tolerance against allergens. Anything is better than itchy eyes all day, so get out and go to the gym – it’s worth a shot!
Even though your eyes are itchy, rubbing them can make things worse. When you rub your eyes it could cause the mast cells to release more of the chemicals that caused your eyes to itch in the first place. Instead of rubbing, try different alternatives that could help prevent further eye irritation. For example, take out bothersome contacts if you wear them, avoid eye makeup, and apply cool compresses to your eyes – all of these will help stop the itch.
Our immune systems mistake allergens as intruders, and in defense our bodies release histamines, which dilate blood vessels and cause your eyes to water. Antihistamines are a form of allergy medication that can help block your body’s response to allergies. Some that might help are Zyrtec, Allegra, Benadryl – a few others can be also be found in your local drug store. Eye drops also can provide relief when your eyes are watery or itchy. They work fast and may be able to help prevent symptoms. If taking medication doesn’t help, your doctor may recommend allergy shots, in the form of a series of injections. These help your immune system get used to the triggers that cause your allergy symptoms.
Allergy skin tests are useful for patients who are experiencing allergic conjunctivitis-like symptoms. Skin tests can help determine what you are specifically allergic to. During a skin test, your doctor will prick your arm with different allergens and wait for a reaction. If you experience redness and swelling, that indicates you are allergic. From here, you can make lifestyle changes that will help control your specific allergies, now that you know what you are allergic to. Blood tests are also available to ensure that the body is producing enough antibodies to protect against allergens.
Hopefully these tips will help, but if your spring allergies continue to get worse, Marano Eye Care can help! We can help provide the proper diagnosis and provide a plan of treatment to restore proper eye function, and ease your allergy symptoms. Call 973-668-4015 to schedule an appointment at one of our two North Jersey locations in Livingston and Newark.