Transitioning out of a hard winter into spring is one of our favorite times of the year. Similarly, a particularly brutal summer helps us appreciate the crisp air of fall even more than the arrival of the pumpkin spice latte. Unfortunately, both spring and fall also arrive with pollen.
Regardless of where you live, pollen lives there, too, and your eyes are hyper-aware of it. Through all manner of burning, itching, and of course, watering, your eyes suffer (which means you suffer) miserably through every springtime stroll in the park or fall campfire with your family.
What might start as something annoying but tolerable can quickly lead to irritation that is more than just aggravating; allergies can affect your vision and make it virtually intolerable to go outdoors.
If you’re a fellow allergy sufferer, welcome. Grab a box of tissues and let’s talk about what causes eye allergies, the kind of symptoms you deal with, and how wearing Stoggles safety glasses can help you have happier seasons.
Allergies aren’t harmful pathogens. Unlike bacteria or viruses, allergies aren’t living organisms. An allergy is your body’s response to an external stressor that it perceives as harmful. When your body identifies anything as a threat, it creates an immune response.
If your body assesses something commonplace and not harmful as a threat, something that most people’s bodies do not find threatening, you are said to have an allergy to that thing.
Why your body finds different allergens threatening is largely a matter of genetics.
Allergies seem to pass down from parents to children, so if one or both of your parents suffer from allergies, chances are you will too. Genetics are the largest single indicator of developing allergies, followed by sex, race, and age.
- Women lead in the race for more allergies over men (sorry, ladies).
- Different races suffer from different allergies. African-Americans, for instance, are more likely than any other race to suffer from a peanut allergy. People of Asian descent have the fewest reported allergies.
That’s some cool data, but why do allergies affect the eyes? The eyes are an open orifice that your body attempts to protect when there’s a threat.
So, it naturally stands to reason that when your body develops an immune response to a threat, part of that response will be to protect the eyes.
Common Allergies Affecting the Eyes
Your eyes can have allergic responses to the same triggers that make you cough and sneeze. Alternatively, you may find your eyes get irritated from certain stressors that have no effect on the rest of your body.
A good example is the infamous onion. Onions produce a chemical irritant that causes the eyes to water. That chemical, syn-propanethial-S-oxide, doesn’t trigger you to cough or sneeze but can be so overpowering to your eyes you have to step away when cutting an onion.
There are numerous common allergies that affect the eyes.
- Outdoor allergens like pollen, grass, trees, and weeds are some of the most common offenders. Ragweed and oak pollen can make you shudder if you know you’re going to spend the next few weeks with watery, itchy eyes and a runny nose.
Indoor allergens. Even though no one wants to stay indoors to avoid allergies, for some, it’s not even an action that would help. Indoor allergens like pet dander, mold, and dust mites can plague you when you’re at home or work.
What’s worse, indoor allergens can be harder to identify than outdoor allergens. It can be easy to tell when a particular plant is blooming, but it can be hard to pin down the source of your allergy inside where conditions are typically stable.
Common Eye Irritants
Allergens aren’t the only offenders that can cause your eyes to become sensitive. Eye irritants also cause your eyes to burn, itch, and water.
If you’re wondering, the difference between an allergy and an irritant is the number of people that are affected by each. For example, poison ivy contains an oil that causes a rash and skin irritation to everyone who comes in contact with it. It isn’t an allergen because it affects all people.
Common irritants that interfere with the eyes are:
- Exhaust from cars and trucks
- Cigarette smoke
- Smoke from fireworks, burning rubbish
- Some perfumes and fragrances
- Household cleaning chemicals
While some of these borders on allergies (i.e., not all perfumes will irritate every person), they aren’t generally considered allergens.
Defining Eye Allergies
It can be hard to determine whether or not what you are experiencing is an allergy or an eye infection. If you have a history of seasonal allergies or know you get itchy, watery eyes when you’re around cats, you’re all set.
For the rest of the wondering, weeping masses, here’s how to tell if you’ve eye allergies:
Most of the time, eye allergy symptoms come along with other allergy symptoms. Coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and feeling tired can all indicate you’re experiencing an allergic reaction. If your eyes begin to water and itch at the same time, it’s likely allergy-related.
General eye-related allergy symptoms can include:
- Itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Burning and stinging
- Puffy eyelids
- Dark hollows under the eyes
- Redding of the whites of the eyes
Most of the time, you won’t experience any unusual discharge from your eye if you’re only suffering from an allergy.
There are also two different types of conjunctivitis related to eye allergies:
1. Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis
Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (also known as “SAC”) happens when the seasons change and new plants begin to bloom and pollinate. Conjunctivitis happens when the thin, protective membrane that surrounds your eye (known as the conjunctiva) becomes inflamed and irritated.
This membrane covers the whites of your eyes as well as the parts of your eyes that are under your eyelids. Most of the time, people who suffer from SAC simply muddle through each season faking a smile and pretending they aren’t in a perpetual state of weepiness brought on by every beautiful blooming outdoor plant.
2. Perennial Allergic Conjunctivitis
Perennial allergic conjunctivitis (also known as “PAC”) is a more permanent form of SAC. With this type of conjunctivitis, you get the benefit of being exposed to your allergen(s) throughout the entire year.
If you’re allergic to dust mites, mold, insect droppings, and/or pet dander, you can find it perilously difficult to travel anywhere outside your home without coming in contact with a known eye allergen.
It can be incredibly difficult to suffer from both SAC and PAC because itchy, watery eyes make it that much harder to see. If you wear corrective contact lenses, you may have to switch to your corrective frames when you are battling a bout of allergies.
How To Manage Eye Allergies
We’re not doctors, but we’re people who sometimes suffer from eye irritations and allergies. We’ve got a few tested and approved ways of dealing with eye allergies that can help you lead a more normal life, no matter what season you’re in.
See Your Doctor
Seeing your optometrist or family healthcare professional is the first step in being able to properly identify the source of your eye allergy so you can set up a treatment plan that fits your lifestyle.
If you’re already pretty sure you know what’s causing your allergy, you can move on to step two, isolating yourself from it as much as possible.
Reduce Your Exposure When Possible
It goes without saying you can’t necessarily reduce your exposure to a family pet that you suddenly can’t tolerate without sneezing, but you can limit your exposure by making sure the pet doesn’t go into your bedroom or lay on your clothing.
When you are exposed to allergens, take measures to protect your eyes.
Wear Safety Glasses and Goggles
It should be a no-brainer: if pollen blows into your eyes and bothers them, glasses may help fix the issue. The problem is, your favorite go-to pair of shades or corrective frames won’t do the trick. Regular glasses leave your eyes compromised on the tops and sides, leaving room for pollen, hair, dust, and other particles to infiltrate.
If you want to reduce your exposure to allergens both outdoors and in, safety glasses and goggles are the solution.
Safety Glasses and Goggles for Allergies
You’ve probably got a pair of safety glasses stuffed in a tool bag in your garage, or maybe you wear them daily for your job. Either way, be prepared to discover a brand new use for them.
Wearing safety glasses and goggles can help limit the amount of airborne allergens your eyes are exposed to, which can significantly decrease the amount of eye-related allergy attacks you experience.
For your safety glasses and goggles to be effective in fighting your allergies, they need to meet a few standards.
Top and Side Shields
Top and side shields. Safety glasses and goggles differ from regular glasses and sunglasses because they offer protection that those types of glasses do not.
Safety glasses and goggles create a barrier above your eye, where the rim of your glasses meets your brow bone, and on the sides of your eyes, protecting your temple and the outer edges of your eyes, where allergens could sneak in.
Impact resistance. For our money, if you’re going to wear safety glasses, even for protection against allergies, you should go the distance: make sure the glasses you get are safety certified to eliminate the need to ever buy another pair of safety frames again.
Impact resistance lets you know that you’re protected against the impact of flying particles and debris when you wear your glasses.
UV protection. While we’re at it, go ahead and load up on UV protection. The sun can be extremely damaging to your eyes and can also be classified as an irritant, causing your eyes to itch, water, and burn after prolonged exposure.
UV protective glasses don’t have to be sunglasses (but they certainly can be the SunStoggles). In fact, the darkness of your glasses doesn’t determine the amount of UV protection they have; it simply gives you a higher or lower level of visual comfort when your eyes come in contact with the sun.
Blue Light Blocking
Blue light blocking. Blue light emitted from the sun and from devices like your smartphone and laptop may also be irritating to your eyes. Scientists are beginning to theorize that if you’ve ever felt the need to rub your eyes aggressively after staring at your computer for hours on end, you’re feeling the effects.
Blue light irritation can cause your eyes to feel dry, strained, and can even lead to other problems like headaches and blurred vision. Blue light blocking frames restrict the amount of blue light that reaches your eyes, helping keep your eyes more comfortable.
Safety glasses that have these features will not only protect your eyes from allergens carried on the wind; they’ll also protect you from light-born irritants, which can leave your eyes feeling tired.
The Clear Solution
“Yeah, but I’d still have to wear safety glasses,” you say as you cringe. We hear you. Not many people like the look of safety glasses, but maybe those people just haven’t seen Stoggles.
Stoggles are the safety glasses that offer you protection like side and top shields, ANSI Z87.1 impact resistance, and blue-light and UV blocking lenses in frames that you actually want to wear. Our frames are available in different color and shape options so that you can keep your eyes protected and never lose your sense of style.
Don’t let seasonal allergies rain on your pumpkin spice parade. Grab a pair of Stoggles and be prepared for all the s’mores and hayrides your heart can handle. Your eyes will be covered from top (and sides) to bottom.
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How Do Allergies Affect Your Eyes | Liang Vision | Sacramento Eye Care
What Are Eye Allergies? | AAO.org