28th May 2024
5 minute read
Categorised under:
Eye Health Uncategorized

How hayfever and allergies affect your eyes – our eye experts explain 

If you are one of the millions of hayfever sufferers in the UK, you will know the symptoms – like red, dry, and itchy eyes – can make you miserable. But what you might not know is exactly how hayfever affects eyes, how you can help yourself when pollen allergies strike, and when to seek help with hayfever symptoms. 

With hayfever season on the way, Chief Medical Officer at SpaMedica, Dr Alexander Silvester, is here with some top tips.  

Hayfever, allergies and your eye health 

Hayfever is caused by an allergy to pollen, a fine powder produced by plants. The condition has a range of symptoms largely affecting the eyes, nose and respiratory system, and cannot be cured. 

Pollen allergies can affect your eyes in a number of ways which can disrupt daily life, so learning how to manage your hayfever symptoms is important. 

According to the scientists, there are around 30 types of pollen that can cause hayfever symptoms – and unfortunately it is possible to be allergic to more than one type, making for a long, uncomfortable hayfever season. 

When does the hayfever season start? 

Hayfever season normally runs from late March until September, but this can vary according to weather conditions and in different parts of the UK. 

When you experience symptoms will depend on which type of pollen allergies you have6. The tree pollen season starts first, affecting around one in four hayfever sufferers. After that is grass pollen season – the most common cause of hayfever symptoms – which runs from late spring to early summer. The final type of pollen, weed pollen, can be released throughout the hayfever season. 

And the bad news is that – due to the impact of climate change – the hayfever season could soon last even longer and be subject to larger concentrations of pollen. Pollen itself could even become more potent. 

The good news is there are a number of ways you can reduce your exposure to pollen, and also a variety of treatments available to help provide relief for symptoms. 

What are the most common hayfever symptoms? 

According to the NHS and Allergy UK, the most common hayfever symptoms caused by pollen allergies are: 

  • Dry eyes 
  • Itchy eyes 
  • Red eyes 
  • Watery or sticky eyes 
  • Swollen eyelids
  • A runny, itchy, or blocked nose (and possibly loss of sense of smell) 
  • An itchy throat, mouth, or ears 
  • Sneezing and/or coughing 
  • Headache or earache 
  • Fatigue 

The most common eye-related hayfever symptoms can combine in a condition called allergic conjunctivitis.  

What is allergic conjunctivitis? 

Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva – a thin layer of tissue at the front of your eye, which also covers the inside of your eyelids. It is caused by hayfever and allergies, often pollen allergies, but also allergies to animals (including pets) and dust mites.  

The main symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis are swelling of the eyelids, and general redness, itchiness, burning and watering of the eyes. It tends to affect both eyes at once. 

While generally it is not serious, allergic conjunctivitis can be quite uncomfortable and – depending on what is causing it in your case – you might find that you suffer from it year around. The charity Allergy UK has more information on what to look out for, and potential treatments you may be able to access. 

Keeping your eyes healthy in hayfever season 

While there are a number of at home and over-the-counter remedies available for hayfever and allergies, if you find that your hayfever symptoms are hard to manage or long-lasting then you should reach out to a healthcare professional. In the meantime, Dr Silvester and the SpaMedica team have compiled some tips on how to keep your eyes (and the rest of you) hayfever season healthy: 

  • Stay indoors (if you can) – especially in the morning and evening when the pollen count tends to be higher. 
  • Wear glasses or sunglasses (wraparound if possible) when you go outside. 
  • Don’t touch or rub your eyes.
  • Soak a flannel or something similar in cold water and use it as a cold compress. 
  • Rinse your eyes regularly with a dedicated eye wash. 
  • If you wear contact lenses, think about wearing your glasses instead. 
  • Keep your doors and windows closed – and don’t keep fresh flowers inside.
  • If you have to go outside, change your clothes and shower when you get home. 
  • Put petroleum jelly inside your nostrils to trap the pollen. 

Hayfever and allergies can be really frustrating, but there is help available. If you’re concerned about your own hayfever symptoms or those of a loved one, speaking to your local pharmacist is usually a great place to start – alongside following some of the tried and tested tips above. 

They can recommend over-the-counter treatments to help manage hayfever symptoms like eye drops, nasal spray, or tablets like antihistamines. 

You can also find lots of excellent information online from the NHS, Allergy UK, and the Met Office – including a helpful way to check the pollen count online once hayfever season kicks in.  

And if you would like to find out more about treatment for glaucoma or cataracts or your eye health in general, visit the SpaMedica website.

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