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Published on: May 13, 2022

As pollen levels rise and many people across the UK start experiencing hay fever symptoms, The College of Optometrists has issued eye health tips to help the public manage their allergies.

Dr Paramdeep Bilkhu MCOptom, Clinical Adviser at The College of Optometrists, said: “Hay fever season has well and truly arrived. With pollen levels rising and people starting to spend more time outside, it’s important to highlight the impact hay fever can have on our eyes, and how we can relieve the symptoms.

“As one of the most common allergic conditions, hay fever can cause considerable discomfort, making your eyes red, itchy and swollen. While the best way to prevent the allergy is to avoid exposure to your pollen triggers, anti-allergy eye drops can be used as they target the site of discomfort directly. One of the most widespread groups of eye drops used to help relieve these symptoms are ‘mast cell stabilisers’ which can be used to prevent the symptoms before they start. If you develop eye symptoms, antihistamine eye drops can help treat the allergic reaction quickly. Both types of eye drop can be prescribed or purchased from your local optical practice, or pharmacy on the advice of your optometrist. Your optometrist is also well placed to advise on how to keep your eyes comfortable throughout the hay fever season.”

To help identify when you might expect to experience hay fever symptoms, the College has developed a pollen calendar that shows the months when each pollen is most prevalent. If you know which type of pollen causes your symptoms, use the College’s calendar to take the appropriate medication, as advised by your optometrist, to help prevent the symptoms from developing or lessen their impact.

The College has issued the following advice for those already suffering hay fever symptoms affecting their eyes:

  • Rinse your eyes regularly with a dedicated eye wash to remove any dust and pollen from the surface.
  • If you develop eye symptoms, a cold compress can provide temporary relief, and the cooling sensation can help reduce inflammation. Dry eye drops that have been cooled in the fridge can have a similar effect.
  • Wear sunglasses when outside – wraparound styles offer more protection from pollen.
  • Switch from contact lenses to spectacles if you develop eye symptoms. Make sure you have an up-to-date pair of prescription spectacles and sunglasses.
  • Avoid your exposure to pollen by closing windows and keeping surfaces clear with a damp duster.
  • Avoid going out in the early evening and midmorning when the pollen count is at its highest.

Further information and advice on how to look after your eyes during the hay fever season.