A Jump Start to Allergy Season

Vishal Patel OD

Ocular allergy, or allergic conjunctivitis, represents one of the most common conditions encountered by allergists and eye care providers. Estimates vary, but ocular allergies are said to affect at least 20-25% of the population and is often under or misdiagnosed and therefore undertreated. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis has a way of sneaking up on you, making you feel less productive in day-to-day activities. The clinical presentation of the various forms of allergic conjunctivitis can vary greatly, from mild symptoms unaccompanied by ocular signs, to severe disease with vision-threatening complications. Symptoms are usually bilateral and can include a combination of itching, burning, watery or sometimes mild mucoid discharge.

When an allergen comes in contact with your eyes, your body releases histamine – a chemical produced in reaction to a substance that the immune system can’t tolerate, hence the usage of “anti-histamine” medications to combat allergy symptoms.  Eye allergies are no different than allergies that affect your sinuses, nose or lungs. Below are a few steps you can take prior to the onset of allergy season that can help give you the upper hand in managing early symptoms:

  • Stock up your medicine cabinet – Be prepared to start taking anti-allergy medications at the first sign of symptoms. Early intervention can limit severity. Make sure to see your eye care provider to get refills on your topical drops if necessary.
  • Wear your sunglasses – It’s always important to prevent allergens, specifically pollen, to enter the eye. Less allergen exposure can decrease the likelihood of developing ocular allergies.
  • Keep track of local pollen levels – This will allow you to determine the appropriate time to initiate your medications.
  • Increase you fruits and vegetable intake – A good source of antioxidants can help combat inflammation induced via ocular allergies.
  • Drink Green Tea – For the tea lovers out there, this is a no-brainer. Green tea contains natural anti-histamines which can be a great additive to a regimen of anti-allergy medications.

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