Allergic Conjunctivitis: Fight The Itch With More Than Your Fists
It's hard to come up with a more annoying feeling than itchy eyes. The temptation to rub your eyes is high- but it's a vicious cycle. Similarly to when you scratch a mosquito bite, as soon as you start rubbing your eyes, the itching sensation increases exponentially. Before you know it, your eyes are itchier, waterier, and redder than they started.
When you have an allergic reaction, your immune system mistakenly registers the allergen as a dangerous substance. Mast cells release a chemical called histamine to the affected tissue, causing blood vessel dilation and increased permeability.
These actions cause a cascade of the allergy symptoms you're familiar with: itching, redness, watering, and swelling. When you rub your already itchy eyes, it causes additional release of histamine to the tissue, resulting in worsening of your allergy symptoms.
If rubbing your eyes is out, what are your options?
When your eyes have been exposed to an allergen, one of the first things you can do is flush out your eyes. Saline eye wash can be found at your local pharmacy and is easy to use. Bottles will usually come with an eye cup, which you fill with solution and place your eye over. With the cup on, open your eye and look in different directions, allowing the irritant to flush out. When helping a child with saline eye wash, you can also just have the child lie down while you rinse out the eyes with the bottle of solution (and a towel to soak the mess!).
Applying something cold over the eyes, or cool compresses, is actually a method my mom taught me do when I was younger. Not only does the cold help numb the itching, but it also quiets down swelling and inflammation. It works quickly and is perfectly safe for your itchy child to do, without the anxiety of putting in any eye drops.
Antihistamine and mast cell stabilizer medications work on the allergic pathway to help alleviate your symptoms. There are options that can be taken orally, affecting your entire body, or applied topically, which quickly affects the specific tissue you need. There are also great over-the-counter options, as well as prescription-grade. Allergy medication is an appropriate option for people who suffer from chronic or seasonal allergies. Pataday allergy eye drops is super effective and easily one of our favorites.
Steroid Eye Drops
Steroid medication is a stronger option that your eye doctor may prescribe for you, especially if you're suffering from a severe case of allergic conjunctivitis. Steroids will suppress the inflammation and help quiet your angry eyes. Because of possible associated side effects, such as elevated eye pressure, glaucoma, and cataracts, steroid medication should only be used under the close supervision of your eye doctor.