How Hay Fever can affect your eyes, and how to treat the symptoms
What is hay fever?
Hay fever season in the UK is typically between spring and autumn, but it can vary with some individuals affected by pollen all year round.
Hay fever symptoms occur when pollen, which is produced by flowering plants, comes into contact with the cells that line a person’s eyes, mouth, nose and throat. Pollen is microscopic in size enabling it to affect almost all parts of the body which then triggers an allergic reaction in susceptible people.
Grass pollen is the commonest cause of hay fever in the UK and tends to be produced from mid-May to July, whereas tree pollen usually happens between late March and mid-May. For those individuals who suffer from hay fever in the late autumn, this is usually due to pollen produced by weeds.
The symptoms of hay fever are very familiar and include sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, and irritable, red or watery eyes. How badly it affects people can vary between individuals and it ranges from mildly irritating to almost debilitating for some.
How does hay fever affect your eyes?
The typical symptoms of hay fever are watery, itchy, red eyes. Sometimes the eyes can appear swollen or puffy, and occasionally they will have a stringy discharge. The impact of these can be variable, but a person who also has dry eye type conditions, will often have more severe symptoms.
As ocular symptoms of hay fever are consistent with a particular time of the year, we call this seasonal allergic conjunctivitis.
How can I treat my eyes if they are sore and irritated?
The best way to keep your eyes comfortable during hay fever season is to avoid the pollen, although this isn’t always easy to manage. Several types of eye drops are available which can help to reduce the symptoms of hay fever, such as irritation, redness and watery eyes.
We now offer a complete treatment pack for people with hay fever eyes (seasonal allergic conjunctivitis) which also includes remedies for treating associated conditions such as blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids).
Is it safe to wear my contact lenses during hay fever season?
It is generally better not to wear your contact lenses during allergy season as pollen can accumulate on the lens surface resulting in reduced comfort, especially if you have reusable lenses.
Wearers are advised to switch to using their glasses as this will reduce the amount of pollen that can irritate their eyes by providing a physical shield. Wearing wrap-around sunglasses in bright sunlight can also provide an effective barrier preventing airborne particles from entering your eyes. Good quality sunglasses will also provide relief from the bright light and UV radiation.
If you need to continue using contact lenses, perhaps for your work, then consider switching to daily disposable lenses. As these lenses are never reused, they can minimise the impact of pollen accumulation and so limit the discomfort and irritation during hay fever season.