Why do our eyes react to allergens and irritants?
Our eyes are particularly vulnerable to allergens and irritants such as pollen and dust. This is because, unlike the nose and lungs, the eyes have no natural filtration devices (e.g. cilia or mucus) for expelling allergens. The defence mechanism in the eye is the tear film, which provides a barrier function and dilutes and rinses away allergens. An allergic reaction can occur if the tear film fails to stop allergens or irritants entering the eye for any reason. On entering the eye, allergens meet antibodies attached to mast cells in your eyes. These cells produce histamines which makes the eyes itchy, red and watery.1
When should I go to see a doctor when my eye is itchy?
Every person is different and the symptoms they can experience due to hay fever, allergies and dry eyes can vary. It is commonly recommended that you should visit a doctor if you find your symptoms are affecting your ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, are causing intolerable discomfort or have been present for an extended period you should speak to a healthcare professional.2 This could be a pharmacist, nurse, optometrist/ophthalmologist or your GP.
How do I know if I have dry eyes?
According to the NHS, dry eye syndrome, or dry eye disease, is a common condition that occurs when the eyes don’t make enough tears, or the tears evaporate too quickly.3
This leads to the eyes drying out and becoming red, swollen and irritated.
Although mild for most people, the symptoms of dry eyes can be uncomfortable. Generally, the following symptoms would indicate you were suffering from dry eye:
- Feeling of dryness, grittiness or soreness that gets worse as the day goes on
- Red eyes with a burning sensation
- Eyelids that are stuck together when you wake up
- Temporarily blurred vision. This is often improved by blinking.
If you are at all concerned by any symptoms you experience, speak to a healthcare professional.
Why do my eyes get itchy when I’m tired?
When we are tired, ours eyes can become dry, itchy and start to burn. Activities such as reading, writing, driving and staring at screens can all cause our eyes to become tired and uncomfortable. Being generally tired can also have the same effect on our eyes. Often the discomfort is caused by a reduction in the number of times we blink. Resting, using eyedrops and reducing the amount of time we spend looking at electronic screens can all help.4
What is the correct way to remove debris from someone’s eye?
The NHS’ current advice, at the time of publishing, is as follows: if you have loose particles in your eye or your eye has been exposed to chemicals, flush it out with an eyewash or plenty of clean water for at least 10 to 15 minutes. If you wear contact lenses, remember to remove them before flushing the eye.
You can flush your eyes in the following ways:
- Sit down and slant your head so the injured eye is lower than the unaffected eye, ideally over a bath or sink, then use a glass or cupped hand to repeatedly pour water across the eye from the bridge of the nose.
- If both eyes are affected, tilt your head back, keeping it level, and use a glass or cupped hand to repeatedly pour water across both eyes from the bridge of the nose.
- If you have access to a shower, aim a gentle stream of warm water at your forehead or just above the affected eye while holding the affected eye open.
- If you’re working outside, you can use a garden hose to rinse your eye using a very low flow setting.
Don’t try to remove any objects embedded or stuck in the eye yourself, as this can damage the eye further. These should only be removed by an eye expert.
What causes redness in the eyes?
Redness in the eye can be caused by a number of things. If you suffer from hay fever, you may get itchy, red and inflamed eye as a result of being exposed to pollen. Other common causes of redness in the eye are pet dander, dust mites, dust and mould. However, redness in the eyes can be caused by more serious conditions therefore it is always important to seek advice if you are at all concerned.
How do eye drops help?
Eye drops are designed to rinse irritants from the eye and help support the eyes’ natural barrier. The eyes’ tear film helps to stop allergens and irritants entering the eye and helps to flush them out. If this tear film is compromised, for example by hay fever and allergies, it will not be as affective. Using preservative-free eye drops means even contact lens wearers can rinse away potential irritants while hydrating the eye, providing soothing relief.
What is the best technique for using eye drops?
Always wash your hands before using eye drops!
Hold the dropper between your index finger and thumb, with the tip pointing down over your open eye or contact lens
Squeeze the dropper and allow one or two drops to fall into each eye. Don’t let the dropper touch your eyes.
Blink the eye to spread the drops and then dab away the excess fluid rinsed from the eye.6
Eyelergy eye drops are sterile, preservative-free and designed to work fast, for effective relief of itchy, inflamed and irritated eyes caused by dust or pollen (e.g. mild hay fever). The drops are also recommended to relieve dry eyes caused by, for example, by wearing contact lenses.