More than 35 million people are affected by seasonal allergies in the United States, and complaints usually spike in the spring and fall. While trees and grasses are responsible for most allergies in the spring and summer, other plants are the chief cause of suffering once the days grow shorter and the temperatures cool.

    Here’s what you need to know about fall eye allergies, how to protect yourself, and how to treat the symptoms.

    Common Causes of Fall Eye Allergies

    Fall eye allergies are caused by pollen, spores and other particulates released by plants. The most common culprit in the United States is ragweed, a vigorously growing plant that begins releasing pollen in the middle of August.

    Ragweed Allergy Symptoms

    Other common weeds responsible for autumn allergies include pigweed, sorrel, sagebrush and golden rod. In most cases pollen activity comes to an end once the first hard frost arrives, but if you live in a southern region, you may be forced to contend with it throughout the winter.

    Mold and its spores is the other primary trigger for itchy autumn eyes. Mold needs moisture to thrive, and piles of dead leaves and other detritus leftover from the summer growth provide plenty of mold habitat.

    Symptoms and Types of Fall Eye Allergies

    When allergen particles reach your body, they trigger an allergic response that releases histamines and other chemicals, causing itching, burning and other symptoms. Histamines can also cause blood vessels to swell or even leak, leading to inflammation and swelling.

    The symptoms of seasonal eye allergies are caused by three distinct conditions, although many allergy sufferers experience some components of all three.

    Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis is the most common type of eye allergy, causing itching, burning and red, watery eyes. In particularly strong cases, suffers may experience “allergy shiners” in the form of dark, shiny circles under the eye.

    Vernal Keratoconjunctivitis is a more serious form of eye allergy, usually affecting boys and young men. Symptoms including itching with heavy, watery eyes that often produce a very thick, “stringy” mucus. Light sensitivity and the feeling that something is stuck in the eye are also typical.

    Finally, Atopic Keratoconjunctivitis usually impacts older men, causing serious itching and burning, redness of the eyes, and a thick mucus that often causes eyelids to stick together overnight.

    Lifestyle Tips to Prevent Fall Allergies

    Most pollen-producing weeds release the bulk of their pollen in the early morning hours, so you should limit outdoor activity before noon, especially when your area is under a pollen alert or warning.

    Minimize the growth of mold by keeping your home clean and dry, and remove dead leaves and other plants from your property that might provide habitat for mold. Additionally, it’s a good idea to shower multiple times per day when you’ve been outside to rinse away pollen and spores on your skin.

    Finally, while allergies caused by dust aren’t considered seasonal, shutting the house down for the coming winter and turning your heating system on can agitate dust that’s settled around your home, releasing it into the air to cause allergies. Always make sure to give your house a thorough dusting in the late summer or early autumn.

    Over the Counter Treatments

    Artificial tears don’t treat allergies directly, but they can rinse allergens out of your eyes and provide some relief.
    Eye drops that contain antihistamines can treat the symptoms directly, and some eye drops also contain decongestants, which reduce blood vessel swelling to minimize inflammation and itching.

    Oral antihistamines are not targeted specifically at the eyes but still provide effective relief for many patients.

    If you’re still suffering, your doctor can prescribe stronger antihistamines or corticosteroids to manage your symptoms. In the worst cases, your doctor may even prescribe allergy shots or other forms of immunotherapy to manage your condition.

    If you’re experiencing seasonal allergies, but just aren’t quite sure what’s causing your symptoms, please give us a call. We offer comprehensive allergy testing services in addition to standard eye exams. We’re confident we can find the cause and offer a treatment solution to help minimize the discomfort caused by your seasonal allergies.

    Posted October 10, 2016 by Silverstein Eye Centers
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