If you are experiencing red eyes, itchy eyes or watery eyes it could be due to seasonal eye allergies. For some, March is the start of pollen season, marking the onset of uncomfortable symptoms such as red eyes, itchy eyes, stinging, burning and watery eyes. Spring eye allergies are often a result of an influx of tree and flower pollen into the air and can greatly inhibit quality of life for those that suffer from them.

How can you guard your eyes during allergy season? Whenever possible reduce exposure to allergens by remaining indoors, in particular on days with a high pollen count. Closing windows, cooling off with air conditioners and wearing full-coverage sunglasses when exposed to the elements may also help to reduce exposure to irritants in the atmosphere. A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter is also an effective way to remove irritants from the air inside your home or office.

However, for the majority of us that must go outside, there are medications that can alleviate symptoms such as red eyes, watery eyes or itchy eyes. Often times a simple over-the-counter lubricating eye drop will moisturize and alleviate itchy eyes or red eyes and remove allergens. Medications containing antihistamines, decongestants or mast cell stabilizers will reduce inflammation of the eyes and treat non-eye related symptoms such as congestion and sneezing. Drops often work better than oral products to treat eye symptoms.

About 20% of the U.S. population, or 54 million people suffer from allergies, nearly half of which are allergic eye disease. Eye allergies can be hereditary and result from a hyper-sensitivity to an irritant in the eye regardless of whether is it harmful. The eyes then release histamines and other immune mediators which cause excessive tears, itching, burning, redness and irritation.

Most importantly, don’t rub red, itchy. This can only worsen the irritation. Because often effective medications do require a prescription, if over-the-counter solutions are not working for you, see your optometrist.