The next topic will be treatment for allergy eyes. Unfortunately, allergy eye symptoms are among the most difficult to treat. If you are a contact lens wearer, it is even worse because pollen just sticks to those lenses like glue. There are two basic types of medications used in allergy eye drops. One is a vasoconstricting drug which makes the blood vessels smaller. This is how it “gets the red out.” Unfortunately, people usually develop tolerance to this type of medication, meaning “you get used to it,” and it has a weaker and weaker effect the more you use it. This type of medication is not healthy for the eye with daily use. The other type of medication is an antihistamine in solution. So, it works just like oral antihistamines work – they block histamine, the major substance involved in allergic symptoms. Antihistamine eye drops are the preferred treatment for allergy eyes. I usually recommend ketotifen. This medication is available by a variety of different brands including Zaditor and Alaway. I have also seen Meijer and Walgreens versions of ketotifen eye drops. Other helpful tips for allergy eyes include NOT wearing contact lenses, and using lubricating drops to gently flush the pollen out of the eyes. It also helps to keep the bedroom windows closed, wash your hair before you go to bed, and change your pillow case often.
If you sneeze and cough during certain times of the year, you may have seasonal allergies. However, occasional allergies aren’t something you just have to live with. An allergist can pinpoint the cause and help you find relief.
In many areas of the United States, spring allergies begin in February and last until the early summer. Tree pollination begins earliest in the year followed by grass pollination later in the spring and summer and ragweed in the late summer and fall. In tropical climates, however, grass may pollinate throughout a good portion of the year. Mild winter temperatures can cause plants to pollinate early. A rainy spring can also promote rapid plant growth and lead to an increase in mold, causing symptoms to last well into the fall.
The most common culprit for fall allergies is ragweed, a plant that grows wild almost everywhere, but especially on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Ragweed blooms and releases pollen from August to November. In many areas of the country, ragweed pollen levels are highest in early to mid-September.
Other plants that trigger fall allergies include:
- Burning bush
- Sagebrush and mugwort
- Tumbleweed and Russian thistle
While the timing and severity of an allergy season vary across the country, the following climate factors also can influence how bad your symptoms might be:
- Tree, grass and ragweed pollens thrive during cool nights and warm days.
- Molds grow quickly in heat and high humidity.
- Pollen levels tend to peak in the morning hours.
- Rain washes pollen away, but pollen counts can soar after rainfall.
- On a day with no wind, airborne allergens are grounded.
- When the day is windy and warm, pollen counts surge.
- Moving to another climate to avoid allergies is usually not successful — allergens are virtually everywhere.
Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, allergen immunotherapy, is a useful thing to do. It’s useful not only because it helps with your symptoms, but it’s truly disease-modifying. It actually makes you less allergic.
Allergist Richard Weber, MD