Irritated and itchy eyes are a common sign of allergy, in which case hay fever eye drops can be used to ease the problem. There are several types of eye drops for allergies and which ones suit you the best depends on what you are allergic to, what your symptoms are and how your daily life is affected by your symptoms. Eye drops only have an effect on eye symptoms, so if you are also suffering from allergic problems affecting your nose or airways, you might need to combine eye drops with other medicines, for example antihistamine tablets or a nasal spray.
Different eye drops work on different symptoms, so make sure to read the table of contents carefully, or ask the pharmacist for help if you are not sure of what to choose. Eye drops effective for red eyes might not be equally effective for your itch, and vice versa. Some hay fever eye drops are available over-the-counter while others only on prescription from a doctor. Some work rapidly while others will show a good long-term effect. If you have already tried over-the-counter medicines but have not been helped by them within a couple of weeks, you may need to get a more effective medicine prescribed by a doctor. Make sure to give a full account of what you have already tried so that you can get something else.
Red, itchy, watery and swollen eyes are often signs of allergies to pollen, pets or dust mites. If your problems are mild you may first of all try to put wet compresses on them or wash them with saline solution or tear replacement drops. If that does not help you, over-the-counter hay fever, or allergy eye drops are available in pharmacies. There are mainly two kinds of eye drops that are used to treat allergic problems; one type contains antihistamines, and the other one contains chromones.
Antihistamine eye drops
If your have itchy or watery eyes, allergy eye drops containing antihistamine may help you feel better. Antihistamines block the effect of histamine released in the mucous membrane of the eye as you are being exposed to something that you are intolerant to, and this reduces the allergic reaction. Eye drops with antihistamine are often the first treatment to be recommended to people with allergy of the eyes. They work fast, usually within 15 minutes, but the effect doesn't last very long, which is why you may have to use them several times a day.
Antihistamine also comes as tablets, nasal spray and in liquid form for children. If you are suffering from symptoms in the nose as well you may need to complement your treatment with a nasal spray. Nasal spray containing both antihistamine and cortisone is often effective on symptoms from both eyes and nose, and may therefore decrease the need for eye drops.
It has not been clarified exactly how chromones work, but most likely they are stopping the mast cells in the mucous membrane of the eyes to release histamine and other inflammation provoking substances. In this way the allergic reaction is blocked. Chromones are not fast acting and have to be taken before your problems affect you in order to be effective. They may be used for several months and are usually good for preventing seasonal allergies, like hay fever and pollen allergy. Chromones are also available as nasal sprays to ward off nasal symptoms of pollen allergy. The substance that is also used to treat asthma comes as a dry powder or a liquid.
Blood vessel contracting medicines
There are eye drops containing blood vessel contracting medicines that will rapidly treat red eyes. However, the effect is temporary and will not treat the underlying allergy. These eye drops should not be used for more than one week, since long-term use may make the problems worse. They are for sole use, or in combination with antihistamine.
Make sure to always read the patient information leaflet found inside the package before using eye drops. The instruction may vary depending on the type. If they are prescription eye drops you should follow the dosage instructions on the label that's attached to the box. When it comes to over-the-counter eye drops you will find the right dosage on the box or on the patient's information leaflet.
A lot of eye drops contain preservatives that can discolour soft contact lenses. Remove the lenses before taking the drops, and wait for a while before putting them back again. Exactly for how long you need to wait varies between different allergy eye drops - that information can be found on the patient's information leaflet. Some eye drops for allergy treatment should not be used at all if you are using contact lenses.
If the over-the-counter eye drops do not ease your symptoms within a couple of weeks, or if only one eye is affected by problems, you should tell a doctor what medicines you have been taking and ask for something else. The goal for you is to be free of symptoms and that your quality of your life does not decrease because of your allergy.
UK/GEN/15/0057e Date of preparation: December 2015
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