Summertime is great…except if you have seasonal allergies. Then, summer can turn you into a congested mess with itchy, red, watery eyes and a terrible case of the sneezes.
If you’re one of the many people who equates warm weather and blooming plants with seasonal allergies, we can help you manage your symptoms. The summer months can be very uncomfortable and even affect your overall well-being if allergies aren’t effectively managed.
Let’s explore some strategies to care for your eyes during the summer and minimize the impact of seasonal allergies, so you can enjoy the sunny days with clear, comfortable vision.
Understanding seasonal allergies
Seasonal allergies are caused by your immune system reacting to specific allergens in the environment. When they affect the conjunctiva in your eyes, the result is allergic conjunctivitis and eye inflammation.
Common triggers include pollen from trees, grasses, and flowers. When these allergens come into contact with your eyes, they can cause a variety of symptoms including itching, redness, watery eyes, and even swelling. Allergies can have a significant impact on your quality of life, so it’s important to take proactive steps to care for your eyes.
To reduce your exposure to allergens, consider following these preventive measures:
- Stay informed. Monitor local pollen counts, and plan your outdoor activities accordingly. Pollen is usually higher in the mornings and on dry, windy days.
- Wear protective eyewear. If you’re planning to be outdoors, take along a pair of sunglasses that will protect your eyes from UV rays and also offer some protection against pollen. Wraparound styles form a more effective barrier, preventing pollen from getting into your eyes.
- Keep your windows closed. You don’t want to invite pollen into your indoor living space. Instead, keep your air conditioner set to a comfortable temperature and avoid opening your windows when pollen counts are high.
- Choose a HEPA filter. High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are more effective at removing pollen from your indoor air. Be sure to change the filter often in your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system and select the best quality one you can afford that’s recommended for your system.
- In addition to using HEPA filters in your home’s HVAC system, frequent vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum can eliminate the pollen that’s made its way inside your home. Wash your bedding regularly to reduce accumulation.
- Limit outdoor activities. Especially when allergens levels are high, it’s recommended that you limit your time outdoors. This includes early mornings or dry, sunny days. Work out inside a gym and avoid opening windows while driving your car.
Even if you follow these recommendations, you may still be exposed to levels of allergens that cause you to be symptomatic. While prevention is key, it’s also useful to have strategies to manage your discomfort when affected by seasonal allergies.
If you’re concerned by how your eyes feel or find it difficult to manage your symptoms on your own, make an appointment with one of our knowledgeable optometrists. We can suggest options based on your unique needs and ensure that no other underlying condition is contributing to your discomfort.
How to manage your allergy symptoms
Lubricating eye drops, including over-the-counter artificial tears, are helpful to soothe dryness and temporarily alleviate eye irritation caused by allergies. Ask your optometrist for a recommendation that’s tailored to your specific needs.
If your eyes are sore or swollen, try applying a cold compress or a cool, damp washcloth over your closed eyelids to reduce inflammation and provide some relief from itching and redness.
Although it may be tempting, avoid rubbing your eyes, as this can actually worsen your symptoms or even lead to corneal abrasions. Always make sure your hands are clean before washing the area around your eyes, applying eye drops, or handling contact lenses.
Keep your face and eye area clean with gentle cleansers, and always remove your makeup or sunscreen at the end of the day. This will help reduce the risk of symptoms or infections.
If your symptoms persist, consult your optometrist. We may be able to offer you prescription medications, such as antihistamine eye drops, to provide relief. Oral antihistamines may also help alleviate symptoms by reducing your body’s allergic response to pollen and other triggers. An eye care professional can conduct a comprehensive examination, identify the root cause of your symptoms, and provide you with effective treatment options.
While summer is often embraced with excitement, it brings its own unique set of challenges in the form of seasonal allergies. By being proactive and following these strategies, you can minimize the impact of allergen and be able to once again enjoy the summer months.
Our optometrists at Dr. Sam Dhaliwal & Associates are your partners in helping to maintain optimal eye health throughout the year. Count on us to provide you with valuable information and treatment plans that will help you embrace the joys of summer with confidence and clarity.