I’m sure most of us can relate to having experienced some sort of seasonal allergy when Spring and Summer comes around. For some it’s a mild case of hayfever, whereas for others, it can be a struggle getting through those months. Besides the constant runny nose and sneezing, seasonal allergies also have a large effect on our eyes – from watery eyes to allergic conjunctivitis.
 Particularly for our contact lens wearers, the symptoms often are escalated.
Let’s rewind back to the basics and explain how your eyes are affected by seasonal allergies. Your eyes are one of the most sensitive organs in your body. The surface of your eye is packed with receptors and mast cells which are essentially a group of cells that respond to stimuli, such as allergens in the environment (e.g. pollen during Spring and Summer). For those who are more sensitive to these allergens, it can trigger an immune response and begin the cascade of allergy symptoms.[2,3]
Fortunately, eye drops that contain anti-histamine and mast cell stabiliser components can be used to relieve these symptoms. However, allergens have a particular affinity to soft contact lenses, which can often complicate the condition for our soft contact lens wearers. In mild cases, symptoms can be controlled with scheduled instillation of anti-allergy eye drops before and after contact lens wear. It is also very useful to keep a bottle of lubricating eye drops on hand that can be used throughout the day to wash the allergens out. During allergy season, it is even more important to be diligent with the care and maintenance of your contact lenses, ensuring you do the ‘rub and rinse’ to rub off all the allergens on your lenses.
Some general tips for our soft contact lens wearers who have seasonal allergies – it may be worthwhile and more comfortable to switch back to wearing glasses more often than contacts during allergy season. If soft contact lenses are an essential in your everyday life however, you may want to consider switching to daily disposables rather than wearing your usual fortnightly/monthly lenses. This way you can replace the lenses more regularly and have less allergen exposure from frequent wear.
Furthermore, allergies and itch can increase the tendency to rub your eyes, however rubbing is no answer and can often make it worse! The best way to relieve itch is to apply a cold compress over your eyes – the cooling sensation will keep both the itch and swelling away.
And lastly, if symptoms do not improve and you feel it is affecting your quality of life, make sure you book in with your optometrist for further investigation and opinion on treatment. We’re always here to help!