The hay fever season runs from spring through to autumn and affects nearly 18 million people in the UK. Hay fever sufferers have allergic reactions to different types of pollen, which include itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, runny or blocked nose and difficulty in breathing. Pollen grains can set off an allergic reaction as the conjunctiva (the transparent membrane covering the white of the eye) becomes inflamed causing watery, red, itchy eyes. The whites of your eyes may swell up and you may also experience a gritty feeling in your eyes.
Managing your hay fever:
- Stay indoors – when there is a high pollen count, keep windows and doors closed and keep surfaces clear with a damp duster. Avoid going out in the early evening and midmorning when the pollen count is at its highest.
- Wear sunglasses when you are outdoors – wraparound glasses offer more protection from pollen.
- Wear glasses rather than your contact lenses – especially when the pollen count is high.
- Change your clothes and have a shower – if you have been outside for a while, you may have pollen on your clothes, skin and hair. Taking a shower and changing your clothes can help.
- Bathe your eyes regularly in cold water.
- Apply petroleum jelly to your nostrils – this will trap pollen.
Treating your hay fever:
- Anti-allergy eye drops – these act as a protective defence. If you wear contact lenses remember to check if you can use the drops while your lenses are in. The College has produced an infographic which gives guidance on the best time to start taking eye drops depending on your allergy.
- Antihistamines – in people with allergies, the body mistakes something harmless, such as pollen, for a threat and produces histamine, which causes symptoms such as rashes, a runny nose and/or sneezing. Taking Antihistamines before you come into contact with pollen can prevent this happening or can help reduce the severity of the symptoms if taken afterwards.
- Steroid eye drops – these are very effective but can have serious side effects, such as glaucoma, cataracts and damage to the cornea. They are only available on prescription.