Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
1:00 AM 30th March 2024

How Hay Fever Affects Your Eyes, Plus How To Prevent And Treat Symptoms

photo supplied by Vision Direct
photo supplied by Vision Direct
As we head into spring, the awakening of nature brings misery to millions of Britons who suffer from hay fever. One of Allergy UK's reports stated that more than a quarter of adults (26%) and 10-15% of children in the UK are allergic to pollen.

According to the NHS, hay fever is usually worse between late March and September, during warm, humid and windy weather when pollen count is at its highest.

Medically known as allergic rhinitis, this vulnerability to pollen includes symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, blocked noses, and headaches. 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.

Nimmi Mistry, a professional services optician at Vision Direct, explains the effects of hay fever on the eyes and how to protect them during allergy season.

How does hay fever affect the eyes?

Hay fever is an allergy that comes about due to the immune systems of an individual detecting the pollen in our environment as a foreign body (allergen). As a result, the body begins to defend itself from the allergen, releasing histamine, a biochemical compound that gives rise to typical symptoms of hay fever. In the eye, the release of histamine is responsible for dilation of small blood vessels of the conjunctiva, including part of the conjunctiva under our eyelids.

Symptoms like redness, itchiness, watering and swelling tend to present in both eyes and dissipate once the pollen count reduces.

How to prevent hay fever symptoms

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

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. 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.

Don’t dry your bedding, or clothing, outside

As we approach warmer days, it may be tempting to start drying your clothing and bedding outside. However, when bedding is dried outside, it may collect pollen particles from the air. These pollen particles can then cling to the bedding material.

When individuals with hay fever use this bedding, particularly when sleeping, they may experience increased exposure to pollen. 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, it may be worth sticking to drying your laundry inside to limit pollen exposure to your eye area.

Wear wraparound sunglasses

For going out it’s worth investing in a pair of wraparound sunglasses. In addition to greater coverage of the eye and its protection against UV radiation, wrap arounds 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.

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

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. 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.

A few versions of these eye drops including:

Sodium cromoglycate
— Can be used in cases of allergic conjunctivitis and seasonal keratoconjunctivitis in adults. Apply 1 drop four times daily or at the advice of a medical professional.

Lodoxamide — Can be used in cases of allergic conjunctivitis in adults. Apply 1 drop 4 times daily or at the advice of a medical professional.

How to treat hay fever symptoms

Avoiding pollen is impossible, so treatment of hay fever symptoms relies on preventative measures. There are some ways that you can alleviate the symptoms caused by hay fever which can make you feel more comfortable.

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. Consult your pharmacist prior to purchasing these 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. When suffering from hay fever, refrain from wearing eye make-up.

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