Eye Allergies

Table of Contents


When you feel as if something is in your eye, there is nothing more annoying. If you have red eyes and irritation then it could be allergies. In order for eye allergies to be treated, one needs to find what causes the reaction. Eye allergies can go along with sneezing, sniffing, or a stuffy nose.

A harmless allergen can trigger an allergic reaction in a person’s immune system. Your immune system produces antibodies known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE). An allergic reaction occurs when these antibodies attach to cells that release chemicals.

The reaction occurs around the eyes. Inflammation of the conjunctiva is the cause of eye allergies. An eyelid’s inner membrane and the white of the eye are covered by this mucous membrane. The good news is those eye allergies do not pose any threat to your eyesight.


A seasonal allergy to pollen or mold spores is the most common cause of eye allergies. Days with high pollen counts usually worsen symptoms of seasonal allergies.

The allergens present in indoor spaces can also affect the eyes year-round. Cleaning your house or grooming your pet may worsen your symptoms.

Some common causes of eye allergies include:

  • Seasonal allergies like pollen come from grass, weeds, and surrounding trees.
  • Year-round allergies like dust, pet dander, and other possible indoor allergens.
  • Contact allergies from makeup, fragrances, and other chemicals.
  • A less common allergy comes from contact lenses, known as papillary conjunctivitis.

It is best to try to avoid the allergies that can cause triggers for your symptoms if possible. A healthcare professional can help identify the cause of your allergy.


After coming into contact with the allergen, symptoms may begin immediately. Symptoms can also take two up to four days to appear.

Symptoms of eye allergies include:

  • Eyes that are red and irritated.
  • Itchiness.
  • Eyes that tear or seem runny.
  • Eyelids that are swollen.
  • Eyes that burn, are painful and feel sore.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Inflammation around the eye area.

Sneezing and runny nose are common allergy symptoms that accompany eye allergies.


Many types of eye allergies occur. Getting the right diagnosis will help you get the correct treatment for your eyes. The most common types of eye allergies include:

  • Seasonal Conjunctivitis occurs in the spring and the fall.
  • Perennial Conjunctivitis occurs year-round.
  • Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis occurs in boys and young men that have asthma or eczema.
  • Atopic Keratoconjunctivitis occurs in older people. Typically in men that have a history of dermatitis.
  • Contact Conjunctivitis is an allergy caused by the contact lens irritating the eye.
  • Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis is a more serious allergy to contacts. It causes fluid sacs in the upper lining of the inner eyelid.


Avoiding allergen triggers is usually the best way to improve symptoms. Knowing what you are allergic to can make this possible. You might need medical care if you do not know the cause of the allergic reaction.

A prescribed medication from a doctor might improve your eye allergy symptoms. These can include:

  • Immunotherapy is given by injection.
  • Drops for the eyes.
  • Antihistamines.

There are over-the-counter medications that also can help. These include:

  • Eye drops that are artificial tears.
  • Antihistamines in pill form.
  • Eye drops that contain decongestants.

Changes in the home and personal behavior can help you lessen your exposure to allergens. Some suggestions are:

  • During high periods of pollen keep the windows shut.
  • Having an air conditioner in the home and the car.
  • Washing hands after touching animals.
  • Put on sunglasses when outdoors to keep pollen out of the eyes.
  • Use eye drops that lubricate the eyes.
  • Even if your eyes itch, do not rub them.


Many over-the-counter oral medications help watery and itchy eyes.

  • Zyrtec
  • Benadryl
  • Allegra
  • Claritin

There are also eye drops that help watery and itchy eyes. There are eye drops available at the local pharmacy that can ease these symptoms. The eye drops are put in the eyes two to three times a day.

If over-the-counter eye drops are not helpful then seeing a doctor is the next step. A doctor can prescribe medications that can help relieve dry, watery, and itchy eyes. These include:

If symptoms persist you might need allergy shots. This prescribed method allows your body to get exposed to the allergen over time. This allows the body to get used to the allergen.

  1. American Academy of Asthma Allergy & Immunology. Eye (Ocular) Allergy. 2022. Available at AAAAI.org.
  2. Drugs. Optivar. 2022. Available at Drugs.com.
  3. Drugs. Zerviate. 2021. Available at Drugs.com.
  4. Drugs. Emadine. 2022. Available at Drugs.com.
  5. Drugs. Livostin. 2022. Available at Drugs.com.
  6. Drugs. Patanol Eye Drops. 2021. Available at Drugs.com.

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