Seasonal allergies impact millions of individuals annually, mainly during the seasonal transitions from winter to spring when plants and trees are pollinating and from summer to fall when the ragweed plants are pollinating. Like other allergies, seasonal allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts abnormally to a foreign substance such as the pollen from trees and plants.
When the eyes register a foreign material as a dangerous substance, they enact a chemical response to fight the allergen, which can cause the eyes to become itchy, watery, and red, otherwise referred to as allergic conjunctivitis. The way the immune system reacts to allergens such as dust, pollen, and smoke varies from person to person, making for a broad range of allergic reactions to the same substance.
Though allergens affect everyone differently, they have a tendency to present through a similar set of symptoms:
Teary eyes - the eyes automatically release water to clean the eyes of potentially dangerous foreign substances like pollen, dust, and smoke
Swollen eyes - many people feel itchy after exposure to these foreign substances and want to scratch their eyes; this continuous friction causes swelling of the skin covering the eyes
Dry eyes - dry eyes most commonly occur during the winter due to extreme cold or snow, causing the eyes to become dry, sore, and red.
Itchy eyes - you may be exposed to allergens at any time, irritating the inside of your eyes and creating the urge to scratch them in an attempt to provide relief
Red eyes - redness of the eyes typically accompanies or results from other symptoms like itchy eyes and swelling; they may also become red due to certain capillaries inside the eyes which turn red when exposed to an allergen
Though allergens cannot be prevented, you can take measures to reduce your chances of exposure to them. By either reducing your time outdoors on windy days or wearing a pair of sunglasses that provide adequate coverage for your eyes, you can reduce your chances of encountering allergens. Furthermore, wearing pollen masks and/or sunglasses while working outdoors can help prevent any allergens from blowing into your eyes.
While experiencing an allergic reaction, be sure to stay hydrated, use any doctor-recommended eye drops to reduce irritation, and, if you use contact lenses, switch to a pair of glasses to add some extra protection and minimize discomfort. Lastly, try to avoid scratching your eyes as much as possible to prevent additional irritation.