Eye allergies



What are eye allergies?

Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, occur when the eyes react to substances that irritate them. These substances are called allergens, and when the body responds to them, it causes an allergic reaction.

The immune system normally defends the body against harmful invaders, such as viruses and bacteria, to ward off illnesses. In people with eye allergies, however, the immune system mistakes an allergen for a dangerous substance. This causes the immune system to create chemicals that fight against the allergen, even though it is harmless. The reaction leads to numerous irritating symptoms, such as itchy, red, and watery eyes. In some people, eye allergies may also be related to eczema and asthma.

How common are eye allergies?

Eye allergies are extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of eye allergies?

The common symptoms of eye allergies are:

  • Itchy or burning eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Red or pink eyes
  • Scaling around the eyes
  • Swollen or puffy eyelids, especially in the morning

One eye or both eyes may be affected. In some cases, these symptoms might be accompanied by a runny nose, congestion, or sneezing.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes eye allergies?

Eye allergies are caused by an adverse immune reaction to certain allergens. Most reactions are triggered by allergens in the air, such as:

  • Pollen
  • Dander
  • Mold
  • Smoke
  • Dust

Normally, the immune system promotes chemical changes in the body that help fight off harmful invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. However, in people with eye allergies, the immune system mistakenly identifies a harmless allergen as a dangerous intruder and begins to fight against it. A substance called histamine is released when the eyes come into contact with an allergen. Histamine causes many uncomfortable symptoms, such as itchy and watery eyes. It can also cause a runny nose, sneezing, and coughing.

An eye allergy may happen at any time of year. However, it is especially common during the spring, summer, and fall months when trees, grasses, and plants are in bloom. Such reactions can also occur when a sensitive person comes into contact with an allergen and rubs their eyes. Food allergies may also cause eye allergy symptoms.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for eye allergies?

Please consult with your doctor for more information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are eye allergies diagnosed?

Eye allergies are best diagnosed by an allergist, or someone who specializes in diagnosing and treating allergies. Seeing an allergist is particularly important if you have other allergy-related symptoms, such as asthma or eczema.

The allergist will first ask you about your medical history and symptoms, including when they started and how long they have persisted. They will then perform a skin prick test to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms. A skin prick test involves pricking the skin and inserting small amounts of suspected allergens to see if there is an adverse reaction. A red, swollen bump will indicate an allergic reaction. This helps the allergist identify which allergens you are most sensitive to, allowing them to determine the best course of treatment.

How are eye allergies treated?

The best way to treat an eye allergy is to avoid the allergen that is causing it. However, this isn’t always possible, especially if you have seasonal allergies. Luckily, there are numerous different treatments that can relieve eye allergy symptoms.


Certain oral medications can help alleviate eye allergies, especially when other allergy symptoms are present. These medications include:

  • Antihistamines, such as loratadine (Claritin) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) or oxymetazoline (Afrin nasal spray)
  • Steroids, such as prednisone (Deltasone)

Allergy Shots

Allergy shots may be recommended if symptoms don’t improve with medication. Allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy that involves a series of injections of the allergen. The amount of allergen in the shot steadily increases over time. The allergy shots modify your body’s response to the allergen, which helps reduce the severity of your allergic reactions.


Many different types of prescription and over-the-counter eyedrops are available to treat eye allergies.

Eyedrops frequently prescribed for eye allergies contain olopatadine hydrochloride, an ingredient that can effectively relieve symptoms associated with an allergic reaction. Such eyedrops are available under the brand names Pataday and Patanol.

Over-the-counter options include lubricating eyedrops, such as “artificial tears,” which can help wash allergens from the eyes. Other eyedrops have antihistamine or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications. Some eyedrops must be used every day, while others can be used as needed to relieve symptoms.

Eyedrops may cause burning or stinging at first. Any unpleasantness usually resolves within a few minutes. Some eyedrops may cause side effects, such as irritation. It’s important to ask your doctor which over-the-counter eyedrops work best before selecting a brand on your own.

Natural Remedies

Several natural remedies have been used to treat eye allergies with varying degrees of success, including allium cepa (made from red onion), euphorbium, and galphimia. Make sure to contact your doctor about the safety and effectiveness of these remedies before you try them.

A cool, moist washcloth may also provide relief for people with eye allergies. You can try placing the washcloth over closed eyes several times a day. This can help alleviate dryness as well as irritation. However, it’s important to note that this method doesn’t directly treat the underlying cause of the allergic reaction.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage eye allergies?

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: October 23, 2017 | Last Modified: October 24, 2017

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