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What Causes Itchy and Watery Eyes?

Monday 2 November 2020
Eye Disorders

Table of Contents


I. Hay Fever

II. Dust Mites

III. Pet Dander

IV. Cleaning Tips

V. Medications


Several things can cause itchy, watery eyes. Seasonal allergies can lead to unpleasant eye redness due to exposure to an allergen. When eyes become itchy, it is hard to repress the urge to rub itchy eyes, but that may make your eyes even itchier. If your eyes are constantly irritated, you may be prescribed eye drops like Patanol (olopatadine), Zaditor (ketotifen), and Lotemax (loteprednol). These drops can help with painful eye symptoms, but it is important to know what is causing your eye problems. Read on to learn more about possible allergy triggers and how to maintain your eye health. [1]

Hay Fever

The allergy season most often occurs in the spring, typically the first week of May. Around this time, plants are pollinating and circulating through the air. Many people react negatively to all of the blooming plants and trees, leading to several allergy symptoms. These symptoms will subside as the season goes on, but they can cause long-term inflammation. 

hay bales in a field

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, occurs commonly in the spring months. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, around eight percent of Americans suffer from hay fever. [1]  This type of allergic reaction occurs when the body reacts to a triggering substance.

In the case of hay fever, the immune system overreacts to outdoor allergens and pollen. These can come from wind-pollinated plants like trees, weeds, and grasses. Pollen from these plants can hang in the air for a while and irritate those who contact these allergens. This condition was originally called hay fever because people began experiencing symptoms around the hay-cutting season. Seasonal allergy symptoms can include:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy sinuses, throat, or ear canals
  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Ear congestion
  • Sore throat [1]

Dust Mites

Allergies may be more prevalent in the spring, but you may also experience eye irritation in the winter. Pollen may be gone in the winter, but there are plenty of allergens that may irritate you when you’re spending more time indoors. If you often experience spring allergy symptoms, you are more likely to have indoor allergies as well. Common indoor allergies may include mold, pet dander, and dust mites.

Dust mites are tiny bugs that feed on dead skin cells and can live very happily within your home. They can survive in all climates but prefer warmer humid environments. Dust mites are unavoidable, but you can keep them at bay by regularly cleaning and dusting your home. It is also advised to clean your bed sheets, pillowcases, and couch covers regularly. Itchy eyes and sneezing may occur, but long-term exposure to dust mites may lead to sinus infections and asthma. [2]  

an old piano covered in dust

Pet Dander

Everyone may have their specific pet-related problems, but your cat or dog may lead to itchy, water, and red eyes. If you contact an animal that triggers your allergies, you may experience prolonged eye irritation.

Washing your hands and cleaning up excessive pet hair in your house can reduce allergy symptoms. Cleaning is essential because the National Institutes of Health found that large amounts of dander can be found in every home with a pet. Pet dander also gets worse as your pet ages, so you may need to step up your cleaning routine as your furry friend begins to shed more.

If you have animal allergies, you may have to kindly request people to keep their pets in a different room when you visit to prevent eye irritation. If you visit a pet-filled house, you should wash your clothes and wipe down the luggage to get rid of any residual dander once you get home. [3]

Cleaning Tips

If you suffer from allergies, it is important to have a regular cleaning routine. You may not have any pets in your house, but dust mites and cockroaches may also lead to unpleasant symptoms. In general, it may be a good idea to limit soft fabrics in your home. Rugs and carpets can trap allergens, so having vinyl, hardwood, and tile floors can reduce the frequency of your allergy symptoms. If you want to keep your rugs, you may want to purchase washable rugs that you can throw in the laundry machine. Other helpful cleaning tips can include:

  • Wash sheets weekly in hot water
  • Get rid of clutter and piles of boxes or clothing to reduce hiding places for dust mites and cockroaches
  • Use a damp cloth and mop when cleaning to trap dirt and pollen
  • Don’t air-dry laundry
  • Don’t shampoo carpets because the moisture can lead to mold
  • Take off shoes before entering the house
  • Clean outside entryways to prevent tracking dirt into the house [4] 

a broom and dustpan up against a wall

Medications

If you frequently suffer from allergies, the best thing you can do is avoid your triggers. Sometimes this is unavoidable, especially when pollen is swirling all around outside. Typically, pollen counts are the highest in the mid-morning and early evening. If you can stay inside, you should keep your windows closed and make sure your air conditioner is on and circulating air properly. These measures are helpful, but sometimes they are not enough to get rid of all your symptoms.

If your eye allergies are running wild, you can use eye drops to prevent inflammation. Medications like Patanol (olopatadine) and Zaditor (ketotifen) are antihistamines that prevent allergic reactions affecting the eyes. These drops may help prevent itchy eyes, red eyes, and swelling of the surface of the eye. They work by blocking the function of histamines in the body, which is released when an allergic reaction occurs.

You may also be prescribed Lotemax (loteprednol) drops, which may also prevent eye inflammation and prevent pain after eye surgery. It is essential to use the eye drops as prescribed and wash your hands before applying the drops. Talk to your doctor about the best options for your allergy relief. [5]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.