Do I have allergies or dry eye?

Woman standing in sun rays outdoors

Please note that the below information is intended to be observed as guidelines, and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your eye doctor with any questions you may have regarding allergies, dry eye, or any medical condition.

Ah, spring. That beautiful time of the year when flowers bloom and eyes water.

If you’re one of the 50 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, you know the mixed feelings of relief and dread that come when the sun begins to shine and noses begin to run.

But when is eye irritation during the spring indicative of a larger problem? How can you tell if you’re suffering from bad seasonal allergies, or from dry eye?

Here’s an easy way to tell the difference: If your eyes are itchy, it’s probably not dry eye related. It’s more likely to be allergies.

However, if you’re experiencing stinging or burning eyes, stringy mucus in or around the eyes, eye irritation due to smoke or wind, excess tearing, or difficulty wearing contact lenses, you may be suffering from dry eye.

Luckily, there are several at-home treatments that can bring relief for both dry eye and seasonal allergies.

At home remedies for dry eye:

  • Taking Omega 3 supplements
  • Adding Omega 3 fatty acids to your diet
  • Over the counter artificial tears
    • (Use as often as you need to, but if you find yourself using artificial tears more than once every two hours, you may want to use tears that are preservative-free.)
  • Warm compresses

At home remedies for itchy eyes caused by seasonal allergies:

  • Antihistamines like Benadryl
  • Warm and cold compresses
  • Over the counter allergy eye drops*

If you’re someone who experiences seasonal allergies, there are also several preventative measures you can take that may alleviate or eliminate your symptoms.

  • If you’re allergic to pollen, avoid being outdoors when the pollen count is highest
  • Turn on the air conditioning in your car and in your home if you have it
  • Wear sunglasses or eyeglasses while outside to help prevent any unwanted particles from entering your eyes
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes, as this can lead to further irritation

*Whichever allergy eye drops you choose, always follow the instructions for recommended use on the label to minimize the risk of irritation and other side effects. Limit your use of over the counter and prescription allergy eye drops to what the label specifies (usually 2-3 times per day). If the drops cause increased redness or irritation, consult an eye doctor immediately.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry eye or allergies and aren’t experiencing relief from the above suggestions, talk with your eye doctor about a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs.

Click here to learn more about treatment options for dry eye.

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