What to use for red eyes from allergies

What to use for red eyes from allergies

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

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.

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.

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.

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:


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.

What to use for red eyes from allergies

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.


Priya Raja’s eyes were not cooperating.

A recent college graduate, she had struggled for months with on-and-off watery, red eyes and sensitivity to light.

What to use for red eyes from allergies

She found it hard to glance at a computer screen at the medical startup where she worked in Cambridge, Mass., or to focus on the words on a page.

Thinking the symptoms might be due to conjunctivitis, a bacterial infection, her primary care doctor prescribed an antibiotic eye ointment. But Raja’s symptoms didn’t improve.


“I worked from home because I couldn’t handle the lights in the office, I wore an eye patch, and I had to invert the colors on my phone because it was too hard to glance at the light,” said Raja, who is now 25.

“And my eyes were still constantly watering.”

She wasn’t too worried, though, since after each spell of symptoms, her eyes would go back to normal.

What to use for red eyes from allergies

Raja figured it was just allergies; she otherwise felt well, without major medical problems, and she didn’t smoke or use drugs.

By November 2013, however, her left eye had taken a turn for the worse; she woke one morning to discover it swollen shut. She was visiting family in Texas, and her mom took one glance at her and told her she was going to an eye doctor — stat. That’s when Raja met Julie Ngo, an optometrist in a group practice just exterior of Houston.

Eye allergies: Get relief from itchy, watery eyes

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.

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.

Main allergy symptoms

Common symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  1. wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and a cough
  2. a raised, itchy, red rash (hives)
  3. itchy, red, watering eyes (conjunctivitis)
  4. swollen lips, tongue, eyes or face
  5. sneezing and an itchy, runny or blocked nose (allergic rhinitis)
  6. tummy pain, feeling ill, vomiting or diarrhoea
  7. dry, red and cracked skin

The symptoms vary depending on what you’re allergic to and how you come into contact with it.

For example, you may have a runny nose if exposed to pollen, develop a rash if you own a skin allergy, or feel sick if you eat something you’re allergic to.

See your GP if you or your kid might own had an allergic reaction to something.

What to use for red eyes from allergies

They can assist determine whether the symptoms are caused by an allergy or another condition.

Read more about diagnosing allergies.

Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)

In rare cases, an allergy can lead to a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, which can be life threatening.

This affects the whole body and usually develops within minutes of exposure to something you’re allergic to.

Signs of anaphylaxis include any of the symptoms above, as well as:

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.

What to use for red eyes from allergies

Read more about anaphylaxis for information about what to do if it occurs.

Sheet final reviewed: 22 November 2018
Next review due: 22 November 2021


Taking a closer look

When examining the eyes, Ngo said in an interview, “we go from the exterior in, starting around the eyelid and eyelashes.”

Ngo (pronounced “No”) was immediately struck by Raja’s watery, red eyes and the fact that Raja could hardly pry open her left eye.

“She looked extremely uncomfortable,” Ngo said.

Upon closer inspection, Ngo noted the film of tears that should smoothly cover the surface of the eye was patchy.

What to use for red eyes from allergies

And some of the oil glands around Raja’s eye, known as Meibomian glands, were clogged. That was compounded by Raja’s thick, endless eyelashes, Ngo said.

“Long, luscious eyelashes aesthetically glance amazing, but they can hold a lot of debris,” she said. Love any hair, eyelashes can trap skin oils and dirt, providing the perfect environment for bacteria to grow.

Then Ngo examined Raja’s eyes under the microscope. Fluorescein dye — which binds to dead or dying cells on the surface of the eye — revealed a 2-millimeter open sore on the clear dome covering the left iris and pupil, called a corneal ulcer.

Other parts of the cornea had broken below, too, and additional blood vessels snaked through it. These findings pointed to ongoing eye irritation.

“It looked love a smoldering, chronic sort of problem,” Ngo said. The cornea gets much of its oxygen from the atmosphere, but when it’s under a long-term attack, it sends out chemical mediators that beckon for more blood flow, Ngo said.

Given these findings, Ngo was surprised to study Raja didn’t wear contact lenses, which is a top risk factor for corneal ulcers. She dug deeper, considering other types of problems that could cause Raja’s symptoms.These included an infection by the herpes virus called herpes keratitis, and an overgrowth of staphylococcus bacteria.

What to use for red eyes from allergies

Adult inclusion conjunctivitis, from the bacteria that cause chlamydia, was another possibility, but Raja’s symptoms and risk factors didn’t fit.

Another possibility was that Raja’s eye problems stemmed from inflammation, Ngo thought; this could explain why both eyes were affected. Ocular rosacea, a type of the condition better known for causing red skin on the face, might make sense. In addition, because Raja’s ulcer was near the eyelid — where bacteria tend to dwell, thanks to the eyelashes — Ngo wondered whether inflammation from a toxin produced by staphyloccus bacteria could be contributing.