What causes sneezing runny nose and itchy eyes associated with allergies

By Gary Heiting, OD

Eye allergies — red, itchy, watery eyes that are bothered by the same irritants that cause sneezing and a runny nose among seasonal allergy sufferers — are extremely common.

In addition to having symptoms of sneezing, congestion and a runny nose, most of these allergy sufferers also experience itchy eyes, watery eyes, red eyes and swollen eyelids.

In some cases, eye allergies also can frolic a role in conjunctivitis (pink eye) and other eye infections.

If you ponder you own eye allergies, here are a few things you should know — including helpful tips on how to get relief from your red, itchy, watery eyes.

Eye allergy relief

To get relief from your eye allergies and itchy, watery eyes, you can take a few approaches:

Avoid allergens

The best approach to controlling your eye allergy symptoms is to do everything you can to limit your exposure to common allergens that you know you are sensitive to.

For example, on days when the pollen count is high, stay indoors as much as possible, with the air conditioner running to filter the air.

Use high quality furnace filters that can trap common allergens and replace the filters frequently.

When you do go outdoors during allergy season, wear wraparound sunglasses to assist shield your eyes from pollen, ragweed, etc., and drive with your windows closed.


Part of the body's natural allergic response is the release of histamine, a substance that dilates blood vessels and making the walls of blood vessels abnormally permeable.

Symptoms caused by histamine include a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes.

Antihistamines reduce allergic reactions by blocking the attachment of histamine to cells in the body that produce an allergic response.

Ask about prescription medications

If your allergy symptoms are relatively severe or over-the-counter eye drops are ineffective at providing relief, you may need your eye doctor to prescribe a stronger medication.

Prescription eye drops and oral medications used to relieve eye allergies include:

Treatment of allergic rhinitis

Three strategies are available: avoiding triggers, using medications to reduce symptoms, and getting immunotherapy («allergy shots»).

Avoiding triggers. Here are the steps to take for seasonal rhinitis:

  1. Limit your outdoor activities when pollen counts are high.

    Ragweed counts generally peak in early midday, grass pollen in tardy afternoon and early evening. If you own to do yard work during pollen season, wear an N95 mask. Shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes afterwards.

  2. Keep your windows and doors closed as much as possible during pollen season.
  3. Use air conditioners instead of fans, which bring in exterior air. Drive with your windows and vents closed and your air conditioner on.

For year-round allergic rhinitis:

  1. Put pillows, box springs, and mattresses in sealed plastic covers (allergen encasements) to hold out dust mites. Wash bedding in boiling water (above 120° F) to kill dust mites.
  2. If you own a dog or cat that triggers symptoms, own it bathed weekly and do your best to hold it off furniture and out of the bedroom.
  3. Remove carpets from your bedroom.
  4. Use a dehumidifier to hold relative humidity under 40%.

Medication. Numerous treatments are available.

Here’s a quick summary of the major types.

Antihistamine tablets will assist most patients. For the majority of people, one of the less sedating preparations will be best. Numerous are available over the counter, such as loratadine (Alavert, Claritin, generic), cetirizine (Zyrtec, generic), and fexofenadine (Allegra, generic). High doses can produce sleepiness and dry mouth; men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) may own difficulty urinating.

Nasal steroid sprays are extremely effective but generally take several days to kick in.

Love the oral antihistamines, these drugs can relieve eye symptoms as well as nose symptoms. Examples include budesonide (Rhinocort Allergy), fluticasone (Flonase Allergy Relief), and triamcinolone (Nasacort Allergy 24HR), which are available without prescription. Side effects may include nasal irritation and headaches.

Antihistamine nasal sprays are an alternative to oral antihistamines. Azelastine (Astelin) and olopatadine (Patanase) are available by prescription; some patients experience a bitter taste or drowsiness.

Leukotriene blockers, such as the oral prescription drug montelukast (Singulair), relieve most symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

What causes sneezing runny nose and itchy eyes associated with allergies

Headache can be a side effect.

Decongestants are available without prescription as tablets (pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine) or nasal sprays (phenylephrine, oxymetazoline) and can relieve nasal congestion but own little effect on other allergic rhinitis symptoms. Side effects may include nervousness, racing heart, elevated blood pressure, and insomnia. Men with BPH may own difficulty urinating.

Decongestants should not be relied on for primary treatment but can be combined with a first-line drug for temporary use. You should not use a decongestant nasal spray for more than a few days.

Other medications include an anticholinergic nasal spray called ipratropium (Atrovent), which is effective only for runny noses and various anti-allergic eye drops can be used to treat eye symptoms.

In rare cases, patients with severe rhinitis may need a short course of oral steroids.

Immunotherapy, or «allergy shots,» can assist achieve long-term control of allergic rhinitis. The regimen generally involves skin testing to identify the responsible allergens followed by weekly injections of gradually increasing doses of the allergen, and then maintenance injections every two to six weeks for several years.

What causes sneezing runny nose and itchy eyes associated with allergies

Most doctors reserve immunotherapy for patients who do not reply well to medication.

The itchy nose knows

For numerous people, allergic rhinitis is a temporary seasonal woe, but for others, it’s a year-round hassle. And for some, it can be linked to asthma, sinusitis, or other more serious problems. Because allergic rhinitis is so extremely common, it also adds up to an expensive proposition for American society.

If you are one of the unlucky numerous with allergies, you’ll own to study to deal with the problem. Avoid exposure to things that trigger symptoms.

Experiment with medications to control symptoms; nonsedating antihistamines, antihistamine nasal sprays, and steroid nasal sprays are among the first-line treatments. Some men may prefer one of the numerous other drugs that are available, and others need combination therapy. Immunotherapy is available for particularly hard cases.

The numerous options for treating allergic rhinitis can be confusing at first, but if you take the time to nose around, you’ll discover a way to hold your nose working smoothly — without running!

Image: ©PeopleImages | GettyImages

Itchy nose and seasonal allergies

If a man thinks about his nose at every, he’s likely to ponder of it as a simple organ of smell.

It’s true, of course, that the nose is responsible for the sense of smell, but smell means much more than the ability to enjoy pleasing scents. Because smell contributes importantly to taste, it plays a central role in maintaining excellent nutrition. Smell can also warn us of dangers ranging from toxic fumes and smoky fires to spoiled food.

Allergic rhinitis can blunt the sense of smell, and it can also interfere with the other significant functions of the nose. When your nasal passages are functioning normally, about five to eight quarts of air pass through them each minute. Your nose has the occupation of conditioning that air before it reaches the sensitive tissue of your lungs.

Your nose adds moisture, but to do that, it must produce large amounts of mucus.

What causes sneezing runny nose and itchy eyes associated with allergies

It also warms the air, with assist from a large network of blood vessels. Finally, the nose traps little particles, keeping them out of the lungs.

If you own allergies and your nose traps pollen or other particles to which you are sensitive, an inflammatory process starts correct in your nose. Immune system mast cells in the nasal tissue release chemicals such as histamine and leukotrienes. Blood vessels swell, causing nasal congestion, and mucus production soars, creating a runny nose. Just love that, you’ve developed some of the symptoms of allergic rhinitis — and some of your nose’s normal functions own been compromised.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis

Nearly everyone with allergic rhinitis complains of an itchy, stuffy, runny nose.

Sneezing is almost as common, and a postnasal drip can trigger coughing. Typical symptoms extend beyond the nose to include an itchy or sore throat and itchy, burning, watery eyes that may glance red due to allergic conjunctivitis.

Asthma, eczema, and sinusitis

Between 20% and 40% of patients with allergic rhinitis also own asthma. Other allergy-related disorders such as eczema may also be present.

What causes sneezing runny nose and itchy eyes associated with allergies

Some patients own nasal polyps, a deviated nasal septum, or sinusitis.


If your nose is itching it may be allergic rhinitis

It’s simple to dismiss hay fever as a minor nuisance. But call it by its proper name, allergic rhinitis, and you’ll be on the way to recognizing it as a legitimate medical problem. Add the fact that it affects about one of every five Americans and drains the economy of billions of dollars each year, and you’ll see that it’s an significant problem indeed. Fortunately, it’s also a problem that responds extremely well to treatment.

Use eye drops

Because eye allergies are so common, there are numerous brands of non-prescription eye drops available that are formulated to relieve itchiness, redness and watery eyes caused by allergies.

If your eye allergy symptoms are relatively mild, non-prescription eye drops for allergy relief may work extremely well for you and may be less expensive than prescription eye drops or other medication.

Enquire your eye doctor to recommend a brand to try.

Allergic rhinitis diagnosis

Most people with allergic rhinitis can diagnose the problem themselves simply by recognizing typical symptoms. In complicated cases, an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist can check for polyps and other nasal abnormalities. If it is significant to identify specific allergic triggers, allergists can act out skin tests; the so-called RAST blood test can also assist pin below the culprits.

Types of rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is the most common.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis comes and goes as various plants come into bloom. If your symptoms happen in the spring, you are probably allergic to tree pollen; in the summer, grass and weed pollens are the likely culprits; in the tardy summer and drop, ragweed is the most likely cause. But if your symptoms happen year-round (perennial allergic rhinitis), you are probably allergic to indoor allergens such as dust mites, mold, or animal dander.

Rhinitis can also happen without allergies. Examples include viral rhinitis (the common cold); drug-induced rhinitis (possible culprits include Viagra and the other ED pills, the alpha blockers used for benign prostatic hyperplasia, the ACE inhibitors and beta blockers used for hypertension, and aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs); and hormonal rhinitis (including the «pregnant nose» experienced by some women).

In some people, exercise, eating, and exposure to freezing or dry air, air pollutants, or strong smells can trigger rhinitis. Inflammation is absent in nonallergic rhinitis, and the symptoms are limited to a runny, stuffy nose.

A final category of rhinitis can be particularly tricky. It’s rhinitis medicamentosa, irritation of the nasal membranes caused by overuse of decongestant nasal sprays such as phenylephrine and oxymetazoline that some people use for quick relief of allergic rhinitis.

Remove your contacts

Because the surface of contact lenses can attract and accumulate airborne allergens, consider wearing glasses instead of contacts during allergy season.

Or consider switching to daily disposable contacts that you discard after a single use to avoid the buildup of allergens and other debris on your lenses.

Often, the best choice if allergies are bothering your eyes is to discontinue wearing contacts altogether — at least until every your allergy symptoms are gone. Also, wearing eyeglasses with photochromic lenses can reduce allergy-related sensitivity to light and can assist shield your eyes from airborne allergens.

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Helpful tips for allergy management flowsheet (pdf)
Treatments for Allergic Rhinitis (pdf)

What causes eye allergies

Common allergens include pollen, animal dander and mold.

Eye allergies also can be caused by reactions to certain cosmetics or eye drops, including artificial tears used for treating dry eyes that contain preservatives.

Food allergies and allergic reactions to bee stings or other insect bites typically do not affect the eyes as severely as airborne allergens do.

Eye allergies

Up to 20% of the population may develop eye symptoms in association with their allergies.

The symptoms include eye itching and redness, eye tearing and occasionally some crusting.

What causes sneezing runny nose and itchy eyes associated with allergies

People can also develop swelling around the eyes and darkening under the eyes (called allergic shiners). There are other medical conditions that can present with eye discomfort including infection triggered conjunctivitis (“pink eye), dry eyes, blepharitis (“dandruff of the eyelids”). Your provider can assist sort this out but every of these conditions can be treated. Treatment of eye allergy or “allergic conjunctivitis” includes avoiding the substance causing the allergy, application of freezing compresses to the eye area, frequent use of refrigerated artificial tears throughout the day, reduction in contact lens wear, and use of medicines.

There are both over the counter and prescription eyedrops that can be used to lessen the symptoms. In addition over the counter antihistamine pills and in some situations, prescription nasal steroids and nasal antihistamines can also be used.

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergy or “hay fever” is a medical condition that presents as sneezing, runny and stuffy nose, itchy eyes and throat, ear itching and popping, and cough in response seasonal exposure to pollens (trees, grasses, weeds) or molds.

Every allergies can interfere with sleep quality and make it hard for adults and children to function during the day. The allergy is the result of a misdirected immune system. Normally when people inhale pollens and molds, they should own no symptoms. When people own allergies, their immune system makes an abnormal response such that exposure to these substances triggers the above mentioned symptoms. Seasonal allergies can happen at any time of life and can get better or worse throughout one’s life.

What causes sneezing runny nose and itchy eyes associated with allergies

Approximately 20-30% of the population has allergies. Allergies can lead to some other medical conditions including chronic ear or sinus infections, cough, and asthma.

Year circular allergies

Some people own year circular allergies called “perennial allergies.” These result from chronic exposure to year circular allergens including dust mite, animals, cockroaches, and some molds.

The symptoms are similar to seasonal allergies and include runny and stuffy nose, post nasal drip, eye itching and irritation, throat clearing and cough. Every allergies can interfere with sleep quality and make it hard for adults and children to function during the day. Allergies can lead to some other medical conditions including chronic ear or sinus infections, cough, and asthma.

What causes sneezing runny nose and itchy eyes associated with allergies

Love seasonal allergies, perennial allergies can happen at any time during one’s life.