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Eye allergy (allergic conjunctivitis or ocular allergy) is a condition that causes itching, tearing, red eyes or a burning sensation in the eyes. Sometimes patients might feel that there is something in their eyes, but if the eyes show all these symptoms, and there is nothing in them, it is possibly an allergic reaction.
These allergies develop when the body’s immune system gets sensitized and overreacts to something that people normally do not react to. The immune system identifies an otherwise harmless substance when the allergen comes in contact with antibodies attached to the mast cells in the eyes and the cells react by releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause tiny blood vessels to leak and the eyes consequently become itchy, red and watery.
April is World Allergy Month. Here’s some information on causes, treatment and prevention of eye allergies.

• Outdoor allergens: pollen from grass, trees and weeds which cause seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
• Indoor allergens: medicated soap, dust mites, pet dander and mold.
• Irritants: exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, powder and perfume.

Over the counter treatments include:
• Artificial tears
• Decongestant eye drops (use these no longer than a week, they can make the situation worse when used too long)
• Cold wet compress on the outside of the closed eyelids
Prescriptive treatments include:
• Anti-allergy eye drops
• Allergy shots
• Sedating and non-sedating oral antihistamines


Far better than treating allergies is knowing how to prevent them. Here are some tips to help guard against eye allergies:

  • Keep windows closed and use air-conditioning during high pollen periods.
  • Wear sunglasses outdoors to protect your eyes from the pollen.
  • Use a dehumidifier to control mold.
  • Use mite-proof bedding covers to limit exposure to dust mites.
  • Wash your hands after petting any animal.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes with dirty hands.
  • Reduce the use of medicated soaps and powders if you experience allergies from using them.

These symptoms pose little threat to the eyesight other than temporary blurriness, and are not contagious unlike pink eye (conjunctivitis) where the bacterial and viral forms are contagious.
However, infections and other conditions that threaten the eyesight can cause these symptoms (itching, burning and puffy eyes).

Note as well, that while not contagious, constant rubbing of the eye can cause infection-causing micro organisms to move from the hand to the eye. Always check with an eye doctor to be certain of the ailment and to get proper prescription to help clear the condition.