Itchy, Red Eyes? Here’s What You Can Do…

Solenco Reporter
 June 04, 2018
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Air Purifiers

It is estimated that more than 16 million people in South Africa suffer from seasonal allergies, and its prevalence is increasing.

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.

And in some cases, eye allergies can play a role in conjunctivitis (pink eye) and other eye infections.
If you think you have 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?

Normally harmless substances that cause problems for individuals who are predisposed to allergic reactions are called allergens. The most common airborne allergens that cause eye allergies are pollen, mould, dust and pet dander.

Eye allergies also can be caused by 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 allergy relief

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

Avoiding allergens: The best approach to controlling your eye allergy symptoms is to do everything you can to limit your exposure to common allergens you are sensitive to.
For example, on days when the pollen count is high, stay indoors as much as possible. When you go outdoors during allergy seasons, wear wraparound sunglasses to help shield your eyes from pollen and drive with your windows closed.

Removing your contacts: Because the surface of contact lenses can attract and accumulate airborne allergens, consider wearing only eyeglasses during allergy season. Or consider switching to disposable contacts that you discard after a single use to avoid the buildup of allergens.

Over-the-counter eye drops: Because eye allergies are common, there are a number of brands of non-prescription eye drops available that are formulated to relieve itchiness, redness and watery eyes caused by allergies.

8 Tips for Eye allergy sufferers

  1. Get an early start. See your optometrist before allergy season begins to learn how to reduce your sensitivity to allergens.
  2. Try to avoid or limit your exposure to the primary causes of your eye allergies. In the spring and summer pollen from trees and grasses are the usual suspects. Mould, dust mites and pet dander are common indoor allergens during winter.
  3. Protect your eyes from airborne allergens outdoors by wearing wraparound-style sunglasses.
  4. Don’t rub your eyes if they itch! Eye rubbing releases more histamine and makes your allergy symptoms worse.
  5. Use plenty of artificial tears to wash airborne allergens from your eyes. Ask your optometrist which brands are best for you.
  6. Cut down your contact lens wear or switch to daily disposable lenses to reduce the buildup of allergens on your lenses.
  7. Shower before bedtime and gently clean your eyelids to remove any pollen that could cause irritation while you sleep.
  8. Purchase and air purifier for your home. Indoor air pollution and allergens can be up to 10 times worse than outdoor air pollution. This is because contained areas enable potentional pollutants and allergens to build up more than open spaces do. 

When it’s not an allergy…. Allergies or Infection? Here’s how you can tell

Whether mould, pollen or pet dander is the culprit, allergens affect the eyes in the same way.

Eye infections can come from many causes – virus, bacteria, parasite or fungus – and the symptoms vary with the cause, but in general, infections have a longer list of symptoms when compared to allergies.


Common SymptomsAllergiesInfections
Clear, watery dischargeXX
Pain X
Gritty feel in eyes X
Sensitivity to light X
Thick discharge X - bacterial
Mucus-like discharge X - viral


The bottom line is that, if anything more than tear-like fluids come from your eye or you feel pain, it’s likely more than allergies. To get the right treatment, visit your GP. Eye allergies aren’t contagious, but they can be miserable to deal with.

If it’s an infection, you run the risk of damaging your eye and/or spreading it to others.
When in doubt, rather consult your Optometrist or General Practitioner.

Disclaimer: Solenco SA is a supplier of climate and environmental air quality control products. The information in this article should not be used as a formal medical diagnosis. For medical assistance, please contact your general health practitioner.

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