Spring in Texas is beautiful, but it’s also a key time for seasonal allergies, for which more than 50 million people in the United States are affected. The biggest trigger? Pollen! Trees, grasses, flowers, and yes even weeds release these almost microscopic particles into the air to fertilize other nearby plants. Once in the air, however, pollen can land on most anything including your hands, eyes, and nose, sending the body’s defenses haywire.
Symptoms include runny nose, watering eyes, sneezing, coughing and itchy, dry eyes. Currently there is no cure for seasonal allergies. In addition, spring activities, such as throwing a baseball, mowing the lawn, whacking weeds, and planting annuals can pose a risk to your vision. Here are some ideas you can use to help protect your eyes from both seasonal allergies and springtime activities.
#1. Monitor Pollen Reports
Your local weather channel or weather-related website regularly gives pollen and spore counts for your area. The National Allergy Bureau (a division of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology) is another good resource for monitoring pollen levels. If possible, limit how much time you spend outdoors when the counts are high. This will help curb the effects of seasonal allergies.
#2. Wear Sunglasses and a Sun Visor
A good pair of sunglasses is your best defense against pollen and harmful ultraviolet rays which can accelerate the formation of cataracts. For maximum protection, look for a high-quality pair that sits close to the face or wraps around it, as well as protects against UVB. UVA protection is a major plus! Dark, polarized lenses block glare, making them ideal for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors. While you’re at it, don a visor cap, and wear this hat-sunglasses combination any time you’re outside.
#3. Use Artificial Tears
There are a number of over-the-counter/non-prescription eye drops available that are formulated to relieve itchiness, redness, and watery eyes caused by allergies. These drops (also referred to as artificial tears) work to flush out any irritants. They should only be used if your eye allergy symptoms are relatively mild. For more severe allergies, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor, who can possibly prescribe you medicine.
#4. Replace Air Filters
Your air filter should be changed or cleaned once every three months. Not only will this keep the air in your home cleaner, but it can also lower your equipment’s energy consumption by up to 15 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. For the most effective removal of allergens from the air, invest in a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which is also hypoallergenic.
#5. Wear Protective Googles
Is weed whacking or mowing the lawn on your spring to-do list? In 2013, more than 94,000 children and adults were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the United States for eye injuries resulting from common household products, such as lawn equipment and harsh cleaners. When performing household activities, you are strongly encouraged to wear protective “Z-87” eyewear, which has the ANSI seal of approval.
These ideas are only the first step. To protect your vision from seasonal allergies, as well as at any other time of year, it’s important to schedule an annual ophthalmology appointment. Your doctor can recommend both over-the-counter and prescription medications for treating the irritation or itchiness caused by these allergies. To schedule an appointment with Eye Physicians of North Houston, visit www.1960eye.com or give us a call at (281) 893-1760.