Eye Drops For Allergies: Medication Types, Risks, and Alternatives


What are the best allergy eye drops?

The best allergy eye drops will depend on the severity of your symptoms and the type of allergens triggering them. Doctors often recommend antihistamine eye drops to block histamine. However, you can also get relief from your symptoms with anti-inflammatory, mast cell stabilizer, and decongestant eye drops.

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Itching, stinging, and watery eyes can be disruptive to your day and frustrating to deal with. If you're allergic, exposure to allergens such as pollen, pet dander, mold, or dust mites can trigger these symptoms.

The good news is that there are allergy eye drops that can ease the discomfort caused by allergic reactions in the eyes. Antihistamine eye drops are some of the best at relieving allergic eye symptoms.

In this article, we take a closer look at eye allergies and some of the best eye drops for allergies that you should have in your medicine cabinet.

What Are Eye Allergies (Allergic Conjunctivitis)?

Eye allergies are an inflammation of the conjunctiva caused by exposure to allergens. The conjunctiva is a thin layer of tissue that covers the white part of your eye. When you come into contact with allergens, your immune system overreacts and releases histamine, which triggers uncomfortable symptoms.

What Are Allergy Eye Drops?

Allergy eye drops are liquid medications that help provide relief from eye allergy symptoms. You can either get prescription eye drops or over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops. However, before you buy anything, it's best to consult with your doctor. They’ll help you choose the best medicine for your symptoms.

Eye drops provide relief from various symptoms, including:

  • A stinging or burning feeling in the eyes
  • Feeling like you have something in your eyes
  • Red eye
  • Teary/watery eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Itchy eyes

Types of Eye Drops for Allergies

There are different types of allergy eye drops available on the market today. The one you use will depend on factors such as your symptoms and what is triggering your allergies. The most common types of eye drops include:

Antihistamine Allergy Eye Drops

If you go to your doctor's office with eye allergy symptoms, they will most likely recommend antihistamine eye drops. They are common because physicians usually use them as the first line of treatment for eye allergies.

Antihistamine eye drops block histamine, a chemical released during an allergic reaction. As a result, they provide quick relief from symptoms such as itching, redness, and swelling.

However, antihistamines have a downside in that they provide relief for only a few hours. These eye drops can also make your eyes dry.

Some of the best antihistamine eye drops include:

  • Zaditor
  • Alaway
  • Alcaftadine (Lastacaft)
  • Levocabastine (Livostin)
  • Azelastine hydrochloride (Optivar)
  • Emedastine difumarate (Emadine)
  • Opcon antihistamine and redness reliever eye drops

Anti-inflammatory Allergy Eye Drops

These eye drops reduce swelling and redness by blocking the release of other chemicals that can cause inflammation. Anti-inflammatory eye drops are available in two categories: corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Corticosteroid eye drops are effective in treating the severe, long-term symptoms of eye allergies. Some prescription corticosteroid eye drops include loteprednol, which can be Lotemax or Alrex.

NSAID eye drops work on nerve endings in your eyes, changing how your body experiences itching. The FDA has only approved one NSAID eye drop, which is ketorolac (Acular, Acuvail), to treat itchy eyes.

Decongestant Eye Drops

These eye drops are an effective temporary solution for reducing your eyes' redness. They constrict the blood vessels in the eye area, relieving the red, bloodshot appearance.

However, long-term use of these drops can result in risks such as "rebound redness," making you have bloodshot eyes when the drops wear off. As a result, your doctor will rarely recommend that you use them as a long-term solution. The most common decongestant eye drops include:

You shouldn't use decongestant eye drops if you have conditions such as glaucoma.

Mast Cell Stabilizer Allergy Eye Drops

These allergy eye drops are some of the newest on the market. They prevent the release of chemicals such as histamine when exposed to an allergen.

The best thing about these eye drops is that you can use them for an extended period without many side effects. They can even make it easy for you to wear contact lenses for longer hours. You can either get OTC mast cell stabilizers, such as ketotifen fumarate, or prescriptions. Some prescription options include:

  • Pemirolast (Alamast)
  • Nedocromil (Alocril)
  • Lodoxamide (Alomide)
  • Cromolyn (Crolom)

Multi-Action Allergy Eye Drops

These are combination medications that contain more than one type of allergy medication. For instance, you can get eye drops with a combination of antihistamine and decongestant to relieve eye redness, watery eyes, and itching.

You can also find drops that combine a mast cell stabilizer and an antihistamine, which are effective for treating and preventing eye allergy symptoms. Examples include ketotifen (Zaditor), cetirizine ophthalmic solution (Zerviate), or epinastine (Elestat).

How to Use Allergy Eye Drops

You will only get relief from allergy eye drops if you use them correctly. The frequency of use mostly depends on the type of eye drops your doctor prescribes, so your doctor or pharmacist will advise you.

You should follow the steps below when using your eye drops:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Shake the bottle to make sure that the ingredients are properly mixed
  3. Tilt your head back slightly and look up at the ceiling
  4. Gently pull down on your lower eyelid to create a pocket
  5. Hold the dropper above your eye and squeeze the prescribed number of drops into your eye
  6. Close your eyes for about one or two minutes to allow the drops to spread across the surface of your eyeball
  7. Gently press your finger on the corner of your eye, near the nose, and keep it there for at least a minute. This will prevent the medicine from draining out of your eye.
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 for the other eye
  9. Do not touch or rub your eyes after using the drops
  10. Put the bottle cap back on and clean up any drips that may have occurred during the administration of the medication

Follow your doctor's instructions or the directions on the label when using allergy eye drops. If you have difficulty administering the drops properly, consult your doctor or pharmacist about what to do.

Side Effects and Risks

Using allergy eye drops is usually safe and won’t necessarily cause any serious side effects. However, you may experience the following:

  • Mild stinging or burning sensation in the eyes
  • Eye dryness when using antihistamines
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Headache and blurred vision
  • Eye redness

While most side effects are mild, they can become serious if you don’t follow your doctor's instructions. You can experience serious side effects such as eye swelling, sensitivity to light, eye pain, and other vision problems. If the side effects persist or worsen, seek medical attention immediately.

Some eye drops, such as corticosteroids, can increase the risk of serious eye issues such as steroid-induced glaucoma and cataracts. Therefore, it’s important to use them cautiously and follow your doctor’s instructions.

Allergy Eye Drop Alternatives

Besides eye drops, you can consider other treatments to relieve your eye allergy symptoms. Some of the best alternatives include:

Avoiding the Allergens

The best way to prevent eye allergies is to avoid the allergens that cause them. Start by identifying the allergens and avoiding contact with them as much as possible. Some of the best avoidance practices include:

  • Staying indoors when the pollen count is high
  • Wearing sunglasses and a hat when outside to block out allergens
  • Taking a shower or washing your hands and face after being outside
  • Regularly cleaning your home, bedding, and other surfaces of dust mites and pet dander
  • Avoiding contact with pets if allergic to pet dander

Taking Oral Antihistamines

Oral antihistamines can help relieve your eye allergy symptoms by preventing the release of histamine in the body. Some examples of these medications include loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), and cetirizine (Zyrtec).

Artificial Tears

Artificial tears are a great way to relieve dry eyes caused by allergies. They replenish the moisture in your eyes and lubricate them to reduce any irritation or dryness you may experience. Artificial tears can also wash away allergens such as dust and pollen.

Sublingual Immunotherapy

Sublingual immunotherapy is the best treatment for long-term relief from your allergy symptoms. It involves taking drops or tablets under the tongue containing small doses of allergens to help your body build a tolerance against them. Over time, your immune system will become desensitized to the allergens, reducing or eliminating your allergy symptoms.

Take Our Allergy Assessment

If you would like long-term relief from your eye allergy symptoms, it's time to meet our allergy doctors at Wyndly. Our doctors will use a simple at-home allergy test to identify your allergy triggers and create a personalized treatment plan to retrain your body to be allergy-free.

Take our quick online assessment now to get started and be on your way to an allergy-free life.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Can You Use Eye Drops?

The frequency of use will depend on the type and dose of eye drops your doctor prescribes. For instance, since antihistamine eye drops wear out faster, you may have to use them more frequently than other types. It’s best to follow your doctor's instructions and not exceed the recommended frequency of use.

Are Allergy Eye Drops Supposed to Burn?

It is normal for allergy eye drops to cause a slight burning sensation when first used. However, if the burning sensation persists and becomes unbearable, you should contact your doctor immediately.

Can You Use Allergy Eye Drops with Contacts?

Yes, it is possible to use allergy eye drops with contacts. However, always remove your contacts before using any type of eye drops and wait at least 10 minutes after application before wearing them again. Ask your doctor which types of eye drops are safe to use with contacts.

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