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Keeping an Eye on Allergies

By Krista Elliott

You feel a bit of an itch in your eye, or maybe a bit of grit. You go to rub your eye, but it just gets worse. Now your eye is watering, but the increased fluid is bringing no relief to the feeling of trapped sand behind your eyelid. You run to a washroom to see if something is caught in there, but see nothing — only your increasingly red and watery eye, trapped helplessly and in pain behind blinking eyelids that are rapidly swelling to twice their normal size. 

Aren't allergies FUN?

Whether your reaction is caused by pollen, dander, or other irritants, allergies that affect the eyes are upsetting and frustrating. You may have a big day (or night) planned, but wind up spending most of the time in the washroom, dabbing at your eyes with a wet towel in a vain effort to get relief. And if you have a reaction while driving or operating machinery, your allergies could be dangerous as well. 

So, how to keep allergies from interfering with your plans? 

Know Your Allergies

It sounds obvious, but sometimes we really don't know what triggers our allergies. Keeping a log in a notebook or on your phone of the events and surroundings leading up to an allergic reaction can be an important tool in pinpointing the issue, and determining whether you have an allergy or simply had a bad reaction to makeup or some other external irritant. 

An Ounce of Prevention

One of the best things you can do to prevent allergic reactions, no matter your allergen, is to never touch your eye area with unwashed hands. If pollen is your trigger, wearing large wraparound sunglasses while outdoors can provide an effective barrier between your eyes and any airborne pollen. And if your friend's darling kitty makes you want to claw your own eyes out, consider meeting your friend in neutral areas like the park or a coffee shop, thereby reducing your exposure to dander.

Treat Your Eyes the Right Way

Discussing your allergies with your allergist or family physician will help you determine how best to treat them. If your allergies are severe and chronic, you may be prescribed allergy shots, which should increase your tolerance considerably. 

Effective home treatment for your eyes include artificial tears, which can help flush allergens from the eye and reduce that "sand in the eye" feeling; and cool wet compresses, which help alleviate the swelling and discomfort that come with allergies. It's also a good idea to keep a bottle of allergy eye drops in your purse or vehicle should you have a reaction while on the road. Just be sure to not use these too frequently or for prolonged periods, as they can create a "rebound" effect on the eye, making discomfort worse. 

With a few preventative measures and some focused treatment, you can keep allergies from hampering your view of the world, no matter what Mother Nature throws at you. 

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