From the itching eyes to the uncontrollable sneezing, hay fever has the power to turn a perfectly pleasant summer into an allergen nightmare. While many associate hay fever with immunology alone, it's also of great interest to optometrists. In many cases, mast cells in the eyes release lots of histamines, causing irritating itching sensations. Fortunately, there are ways patients and their optometrists can work together to resolve the issue.
Understand allergens and when they're likely to trigger itching
Weeds, grasses, and exotic trees that aren't native to Australia are the worst culprits. Becuase they rely on the wind to spread their pollen, they can affect those who are living far away from the source. It's also worth noting that pollen coming into contact with water exacerbates symptoms, as it creates starch granules small enough to enter the airways and trigger allergic reactions.
While this means it's difficult to avoid hay fever symptoms, staying indoors after midday and avoiding going outside immediately after thunderstorms is helpful. Planting a low allergen garden, avoiding mowing the grass during peak season and keeping windows closed are other effective ways to avoid allergens.
Talk to an optometrist about prevention and treatment methods
Optometrists recommend using eye drops before symptoms appear. As many eye drops aim to stabilize the mast cells that cause allergic reactions, it can prevent them happening in the first place. It can take up to 14 days for the drops to become effective, which means using them well in advance of an allergy kicking in is advisable. If eyes become dry, optometrists can prescribe drops that lubricate them.
For those who are used to wearing contact lenses, eye drops are still an option. However, it's a good idea to switch to wearing glasses during peak pollen season. This is particularly important when the weather is very hot and dry, as a lack of lubrication causes pollen to become trapped behind the lenses, leading to further irritation. For those who want an extra layer of protection, wrap around glasses and sunglasses reduce the amount of pollen entering the eyes.
Finally, it's worth developing an awareness of the self-help measures available. Rinsing eyes with clean water after going outside removes any pollen present. Taking over the counter antihistamines limits the body's itchy reactions to allergens. If an allergen suddenly causes worse reactions one year, visiting an optometrist to discuss a change of treatment is worthwhile. The way eyes respond to pollen-related allergens can fluctuate, making clear communication with an optometrist important.