For those of us in East Tennessee who suffer from seasonal allergies—and that’s a lot of us—we welcome the blooming greenery with watery or itchy eyes, sneezing, and congestion. It may come as little surprise that Knoxville ranks #29th out of 100 in the list of Most Challenging Places To Live With Allergies in 2020, according to the Allergy, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Knoxville and East Tennessee consistently rank high for allergies for a few reasons. Namely, our region has a dense concentration of trees, grass, weeds, and flowers, and weeds. On top of all that lushness, the East Tennessee terrain essentially encourages pollen and air pollutants to settle in our valley—something like a cradle for allergens for roughly 3 seasons of the year.
In the spring, tree pollens are leading the allergy parade. In the summer, grass pollens will kick into gear, and, then in late summer through the fall it’s mold and weeds, especially ragweed, that trigger allergies for many of us.
So, our own Dr. Thompson has a few tips to help you identify if your eyes are being affected by seasonal allergies, and advice on what you can do to help them feel better.
Eye Symptoms Of Allergies
If you have allergy sensitivities, especially to tree pollens during this spring season, you may experience any of these eye symptoms:
- Dry eyes
- Tearing, or watery eyes
- Swelling around the eyelids
- Sensitivity to light
While it’s helpful to recognize these common eye allergy symptoms, it can also be difficult to self-diagnose allergies versus other common conditions, such as dry eye syndrome, since many of the symptoms overlap.
Dr. Thompson can diagnose allergies by examining your eyes’ conjunctiva, which is the mucous membrane that covers the front of your eye and lines the inside of your eyelids. If he sees a lot of little bumps in your eyelids, or papillae, you have eye allergies. You should know that it’s also possible to have both eye allergies and dry eyes, which Dr. Thompson can also test for so that he can recommend the most accurate and effective treatment for either or both conditions.
4 Tips To Soothe Your Eyes During Allergy Season
The best way to treat allergies is prevention. Here are 4 tips from Dr. Thompson to protect your eyes when seasonal allergies strike:
1. Use The Right Eye Drops
You’ve probably noticed that there is a wide variety of over-the-counter eye drops that claim to relieve eyes that are irritated, dry, red, or watery due to several conditions, including eye allergies, dry eyes, an eye infection, or lack of sleep.
Eye drops can provide a great deal of relief, but you need to be careful when choosing which eye drop to use. Basic artificial tears, which may be labeled “lubricating,” can help wash out any allergens in your eyes, and these are safe to use as long as they are solely “lubricating” drops.
You may also want to use over-the-counter allergy eye drops or oral antihistamines. When it comes to temporary relief of itchiness from seasonal eye allergies, Dr. Thompson has found that three of the most effective over-the-counter eye drops for many or his patients are Alaway or Zaditor, both of which are to be used twice a day, and now Pataday, which was a previous prescription allergy drop that has recently been approved by the FDA to be sold over-the-counter. Pataday is also effective and just requires one drop a day.
If you feel that the over-the-counter eye drops or oral antihistamines aren’t helping you sufficiently, give us a call. You may need a prescription for stronger medication that will provide more relief.
2. Limit Exposure To Allergens
Be aware of the pollen count in your area and limit your time outdoors when pollen counts are at their highest, which is usually mid-morning and early evening. You might want to follow a website such as accuweather.com so that you’re aware if the pollen count is high on any given day. On those days, try to stay indoors as much as possible.
You also want to make sure that you’re using high-quality allergen-trapping filters for your air-conditioning system, and replace the filters as instructed by the manufacturer. Keep your windows closed and use air conditioning at home and in your car to limit pollen in your house and car.
When you do go outdoors, wear wraparound sunglasses to keep pollen away from your eyes, even if it’s cloudy—allergens don’t go underground just because it’s not sunny.
3. Try Cleanses & Compresses
As hard as it may be, avoid rubbing your eyes if they are itching or burning actually will make your symptoms worse. Rubbing your eyes releases more histamine, which is what’s causing your eyes to feel dry, itchy, watery, or irritated.
Instead, gently cleanse your eyelids and eyelashes with a warm washcloth anytime after you’ve been outdoors and before going to bed. This will remove any pollen from your eyelids and eyelashes that could cause irritation while you sleep.
Applying a cold compress to your eyes can also bring a surprising amount of relief. After you’ve cleansed your eyelids and eyelashes with a warm washcloth, use a clean washcloth dampened with cold water. This should help to reduce eye itchiness and swelling.
4. Manage Or Limit Contact Lens Use
If you wear contacts and feel that your allergies are still getting the best of you, consider removing your contacts and wearing glasses more often, or switching to daily disposable contacts.
Airborne allergens can get trapped between your contact lenses and the surface of your eye, as well as accumulate on the surface of contact lenses. If you wish to continue wearing your contacts, be sure to remove them and thoroughly clean them daily. Switching to daily disposable contact lenses may be a great option during allergy season, or you may opt to wear your eyeglasses more frequently.
We Can Help
If you have red, itchy, irritated, or watery eyes and wonder if allergies are to blame, talk to one of our doctors about the symptoms you’re experiencing. We can help determine the cause of your uncomfortable eye symptoms and find the best way to help you feel better.
You should also keep in mind that many eye infections can mimic the symptoms of eye allergies. In addition, sometimes eye allergies can play a role in developing eye infections or conjunctivitis (pink eye), so if you’ve been trying to manage eye allergy symptoms but are still suffering, it’s a wise idea to have your eyes checked to rule out an infection.
Located at 10904 Spring Bluff Way off Hardin Valley Road, Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical has provided the highest quality vision care products and trusted optometry services to our patients in Knoxville and the surrounding areas since 2009. Our eye care professionals are dedicated to providing exceptional personal service to each and every person who walks through our door. Call us at (865) 409-1253 or contact us to schedule your appointment.