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As the leaves start to change and the days become shorter, red, itchy and watery eyes are just around the corner. Spring isn’t the only time allergies can cause tearing and burning eyes; a host of allergens can appear in the fall, especially in New Jersey. While you may consider your watery eyes as just a symptom of allergies, it’s actually referred to as allergic conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is a condition that affects millions of Americans. It occurs when the conjunctiva, which is the membrane that covers the inside of the eyelids and eyeballs, becomes irritated from a reaction to substances like mold, pollen, dander and other airborne allergens. It’s estimated that more than 20% of the U.S. population suffers from allergic conjunctivitis, with fall being one of the worst seasons.
The most common fall eye allergy trigger is ragweed. This plant generally starts releasing pollen in the last days of summer in August, lasting into the cooler months of September and October. About 75% of individuals who are allergic to spring trees, grasses and weeds are also allergic to ragweed. Ragweed pollen loves to spread and can be found throughout the U.S. and parts of Europe, but it’s most commonly found in the Midwest and rural areas of the Eastern states, such as New Jersey.
It’s estimated that one ragweed plant alone can release one billion grains of pollen over the course of a season. Because ragweed pollen is so light, it can easily float anywhere, being found as far as 400 miles out to sea and two miles up into the atmosphere. According to recent studies, ragweed season may get even worse due to rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels.
Besides ragweed, another common allergen that irritates the eyes is mold. Mold exists all around you. As decaying leaves descend to the ground in fall, mold spores become more common in the air. As mold counts become higher, they become increasingly irritating to people with eye allergies, making their symptoms even worse.
Taking simple precautions can dramatically reduce your exposure to fall allergens. If you are experiencing any allergic conjunctivitis symptoms, a skin test can help you determine what is specifically causing your allergic reactions. Once you know what’s causing your fall eye allergies, making a few simple lifestyle changes can control the amount of allergens you are exposed to. This includes using a humidifier, keeping the windows closed with the air conditioner on, cleaning the house often, changing your clothes after being outdoors and taking a shower to remove pollen before going to bed.
Additional testing may also be beneficial to ensure that your body is producing enough antibodies to protect against fall allergens, as well as a conjunctival tissue sample to examine the amount of white blood cell counts present. If your fall eye allergies are severe, medication including OTC antihistamine, anti-inflammatory eye drops and even steroid eye drops, may be recommended to reduce inflammation.
If you are experiencing fall eye allergies, don’t hesitate to visit us at Marano Eye Care. Here at our practice, our goal is to ensure that you receive the personalized care you need to improve your quality of vision. Our experienced doctors can perform different tests and a complete eye exam to determine which fall allergens are affecting you. Contact one of our two Marano Eye Care New Jersey offices, located in Livingston and Newark, to request an appointment with us today.