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25 March 2019

The hay fever season has arrived earlier than usual this year and The College of Optometrists is advising sufferers to treat their allergy, before their symptoms arise, to minimise the effects.

To help identify when you might expect to experience symptoms of hay fever, The College of Optometrists has developed an infographic which shows the months when each pollen is most prevalent. So, if you know which type of pollen causes your symptoms you can consult the College’s infographic and take the appropriate medication ahead of time to help prevent the symptoms developing or lessen their impact.

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom, Clinical Adviser for The College of Optometrists, said: “Hay fever season arrived earlier than usual this year and many people will be affected by itchy and swollen eyes. Hay fever can cause considerable discomfort to your eyes, and eye drops are one of the ways that may alleviate the symptoms. The most widespread group of eye drops used to help relieve the effects of hay fever are called ‘mast cell stabilisers’ which are effective for those with hay fever symptoms that affect the eyes and can be taken in advance of symptoms arising. It can take anywhere between five and 14 days before they are most effective, so to help prevent the symptoms occurring, it’s important to start using these drops before your allergy kicks in.

“Follow our top tips and use our pollen calendar to work out which pollens might trigger your hay fever. Next time you have an appointment with your optometrist ask them about the best ways to help your eyes during the hay fever season. Your optometrist is well placed to advise on how to keep your eyes comfortable throughout the hay fever season. Some optometrists are able to prescribe prescription-only eye drops for those affected by particularly troublesome hay fever, find your local prescribing optometrist here.*”

The College’s advice for those already suffering hay fever symptoms affecting their eyes are:

  • Visit your optometrist or pharmacist for advice and to get medicated eye drops to help alleviate itching and swelling.
  • Avoid your exposure to pollen, by closing windows and keeping surfaces clear with a damp duster.
  • Wear sunglasses when outside, which may help to protect your eyes from dust and pollen.
  • If you wear contact lenses, remember to check if you can use the drops when you are wearing your lenses. When the pollen count is very high, it can be more comfortable to wear spectacles rather than contact lenses. You may also feel more comfortable not wearing contact lenses when you are gardening, and particularly when mowing the lawn, as grass particles and pollen may become stuck behind the lenses, causing discomfort.
  • If your eyes feel dry, seek professional advice from your optometrist, pharmacist or GP. They may recommend that you buy lubricating eye drops to ease the dryness.

Hay fever is the term used when a person has an allergic reaction to pollen. It is one of the most common allergic conditions and often causes eyes to be red, itchy and swollen. It is estimated that there are more than 10 million people with the allergy in England. The most common symptoms of hay fever are itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, runny or blocked nose and difficulty breathing.

*May involve a private prescription fee.


Notes to Editors

  1. The College is the professional body for optometry. We qualify the profession and deliver the guidance and training to ensure optometrists provide the best possible care. We promote excellence through the College’s affixes, by building the evidence base for optometry, and raising awareness of the profession with the public, commissioners, and health care professionals.
  2. The letters FCOptom or MCOptom after an optometrist’s name means that he or she is a fellow or member of the College of Optometrists. Membership of the College shows optometrists commitment to the very highest clinical, ethical and professional standards, so look for these letters to see if your optometrist is a member. You can search for your nearest College member through our search directory.
  3. For information and advice about how to look after your eyes visit:

March 27, 2019