Pictured: Pershore Tortoiseshell

We’ve made it to April, and though we saw some very confused daffodils blooming during those 2 hot days in February, now it’s firmly the time of year the pollen count rises, and hay fever looms. If you’re one of the unlucky many that suffer with it, we don’t need to tell you about the itchy throat, the blocked sinuses, the sneezing, the runny nose, or the headaches – but we can maybe tell you a little more about how it affects your eyes, and how to mitigate it

All eye allergies, including hay fever, have a few things in common – firstly the symptoms, which typically include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Itchiness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Redness or puffiness
  • Grittiness
  • Eyelid swelling

These effects arise when your immune system identifies a typically harmless substance as an allergen, and in the case of your eyes, when it falls on the conjunctiva – the thin membrane on the inside of your eyelid. This allergic reaction is your immune system’s attempt to protect the eye, but it overcompensates, leaving you with that all too familiar discomfort.

Typical triggers for allergic reactions are mold spores, pollen (as with hay fever), dust mites, and pet hair, though the latter two are easier to avoid as they’re mostly found indoors. Hay fever on the other hand makes its way from every meadow and patch of grass on the British Isles and wafts directly in your face while you’re just trying to enjoy the sunshine, so it’s a lot harder to avoid.

Speaking of avoidance though, it’s one of the most effective things you can do to find some relief in allergy season. Keep an eye on the pollen count if you intend to go outdoors during these coming months, and limit your exposure.

Other things you can do to survive the hay fever season are:

  • Wearing a hat with a wide brim to divert oncoming pollen
  • Switching to glasses if you're a contact lenses wearer, as these will help shield your eyes and reduce the amount of allergen landing on the conjunctiva
  • Applying saline drops to the eyes after being outdoors to wash away the allergen before it takes deeper hold
  • Taking antihistamines to reduce the allergic reaction
  • Avoiding hanging your clothes outside to dry
  • Showering and changing your clothes after going outside

If you’re particularly suffering – seemingly more than your hay fever compatriots – it may be worth going to see an ophthalmologist as they have stronger medications they are able to prescribe for eye allergies. Amongst these are corticosteroid eye drops, though they have side effects so must be closely managed.

Though eye allergies can be annoying, they don’t pose any serious threat to eyesight, nor are they contagious. Allergies may temporarily impede vision and cause blurriness, but once the pollen count drops, the seasons change, or you ingest an antihistamine, the allergic reaction will lessen and your vision will improve, albeit only until hay fever season kicks in again next year.

Regardless, it’s important not to mistake an eye infection for an allergy, so it’s best to have any swelling checked out by a doctor or an immunologist for peace of mind. They’ll also help with treatment.
If you’re looking for some glasses to shield those eyes and help you through the spring, check out our range here.

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