Optician reveals how hay fever affects your eyes and what to do

Hay fever can have a severe impact on the eyes. (Getty Images)
Hay fever can have a severe impact on the eyes. (Getty Images)

Spring has finally sprung and while we're totally loving all the blossom on the trees and the flowers in bloom, we're not such a fan of the hay fever the prettiness will inevitably bring.

An Allergy UK's report estimated that more than a quarter of adults (26%) and 10-15% of children in the UK are allergic to pollen.

And with the NHS stating that hay fever is usually worse between late March and September, during warm, humid and windy weather when pollen count is at its highest, it'll be tissues at the ready for those who suffer.

While we associate sneezing and blocked or runny noses with the onset of hay fever season, there are actually some other pretty debilitating symptoms, starting with the eyes.

"Medically known as allergic rhinitis, this vulnerability to pollen includes symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, blocked noses, and headaches," explains Nimmi Mistry, a professional services optician at Vision Direct.

"Symptoms specific to the eye include itchy, dry, irritable, and mildly swollen eyes, commonly known as allergic conjunctivitis. If severe, a sufferer of allergic conjunctivitis may experience bumps and/or swelling of the surface lining the inner top eyelid."

Although the only way to prevent hay fever symptoms is to completely avoid allergen-causing pollen, doing so isn’t a practical solution in real life.

Thankfully, there are some things that can be done before hay fever season kicks off, which can limit the symptoms experienced.

A quarter of adults in the UK experience hay fever symptoms. (Getty Images)
A quarter of adults in the UK experience hay fever symptoms. (Getty Images)

How to protect your eyes from hay fever

Invest in an air purifier

An air purifier can help alleviate eye symptoms of hay fever by reducing the concentration of airborne allergens, such as pollen in the indoor environment.

"Air purifiers equipped with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are highly effective at capturing small particles, including allergens like pollen and dust mites," explains Mistry. "As air circulates through the purifier, the HEPA filter traps these particles, preventing them from circulating in the air and reaching your eyes."

While air purifiers can be beneficial in reducing indoor allergen levels and alleviating hay fever symptoms, they are most effective when used in conjunction with other preventive measures, such as keeping windows closed during high pollen seasons, regularly vacuuming and dusting and using allergy-proof bedding covers.

"Additionally, it's essential to select an air purifier with appropriate room size coverage for optimal effectiveness," Mistry adds.

Don’t dry your bedding, or clothing, outside

As warmer days are hopefully on the way, it is tempting to start drying your washing outside. However, when clothing and bedding is dried outside, it may collect pollen particles from the air. These pollen particles can then cling to the material.

"When individuals with hay fever use this bedding, particularly when sleeping, they may experience increased exposure to pollen," Mistry advises. "This can trigger or worsen their hay fever symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and congestion."

If you are a regular sufferer of hay fever, Mistry says it may be worth sticking to drying your laundry inside to limit pollen exposure to your eye area.

Hay fever season is upon us. (Getty Images)
Hay fever season is upon us. (Getty Images)

Wear wraparound sunglasses

In addition to greater coverage of the eye and its protection against UV radiation, Mistry says wrap around sunglasses can minimise the pollen, dust and other allergens from entering the eyes, reducing your chance of developing symptoms

Switch to daily contact lenses

If you wear contact lenses, you may find them to be helpful in providing a barrier to pollen entering your eyes.

"Unfortunately, with the material of contact lenses being porous, pollen and other allergens can also adhere to the surface, creating potential symptoms of further discomfort," Mistry advises.

"If you find yourself experiencing any symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, you should immediately stop wearing contact lenses and revert to wearing glasses until symptoms subside."

Use mast cell-stabilising eye drops

According to Mistry the most common group of eye drops that help relieve hay fever symptoms are called mast cell-stabilisers.

"Unlike antihistamine eye drops, which work to provide quick relief from symptoms, these drops can help prevent the symptoms from arising," she says. "This means that those who know they’re likely to develop the allergy can pre-emptively use these eye drops to ensure their daily lives are not interrupted by a sudden spike in pollen."

Mistry says there are a few versions of the eye drops including:

  • Sodium cromoglycate — Can be used in cases of allergic conjunctivitis and seasonal keratoconjunctivitis in adults. Apply one drop four times daily or at the advice of a medical professional.

  • Lodoxamide — Can be used in cases of allergic conjunctivitis in adults. Apply one drop four times daily or at the advice of a medical professional.

Opticians recommend eye drops to help prevent and alleviate symptoms of hay fever. (Getty Images)
Opticians recommend eye drops to help prevent and alleviate symptoms of hay fever. (Getty Images)

How to treat hay fever symptoms

Avoiding pollen is impossible, but there are some ways that you can alleviate the eye symptoms caused by hay fever.

Use antihistamine eye drops

Antihistamines can be used to treat symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, commonly caused by pollen and other allergens including house mites and pet dander.

"The drops can reduce the irritation, itching and redness of the eye," Mistry advises. "Consult your pharmacist prior to purchasing drops."

Don’t wear any eye make-up

If your eyes are already sore, applying eye make-up is only likely to exacerbate the issue. "The debris from the make-up is likely to enter the tear film of the eye through its application and removal, which in turn will aggravate the pre-existing symptoms," Mistry explains.

Apply a cold compress

Allergic conjunctivitis often results in inflammation of the conjunctiva (A thin mucous membrane, one of the outermost parts of the eyes

"Applying cold compresses not only soothes the eye, but can help reduce the redness and swelling of the eye, providing temporary relief from itching and discomfort," Mistry advises.

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