What to do with those Red, Itchy Eyes

It’s Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, but with fall allergy season upon us, eyes may turn red and itchy due to allergic conjunctivitis.

What is allergic conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when the eyes are exposed to allergens like pollen or mold spores. Inside the eyelids is a membrane called conjunctiva. This area is susceptible to irritation from allergens. When it becomes irritated and inflamed, the whites of the eyes turn red (hence the name “pink eye”). The allergic inflammation also causes the eyelids to become maddeningly itchy and can also cause the eyes to secrete excessive tears or mucus.

There are two types of allergic conjunctivitis that your child may suffer with: Acute and Chronic

  1. Acute allergic conjunctivitis is common during allergy season. While uncomfortable, it is usually short-lived.
  2. Chronic allergic conjunctivitis is less common compared to acute allergic conjunctivitis and. of course, lasts longer. This condition is often a reaction to various allergens such as animal dander, dust, and food that are ever-present in the environment (unlike seasonal pollens that ebb and flow).

Can you prevent allergic conjunctivitis?

The easiest way to prevent this condition is to minimize exposure to environmental factors that could trigger the allergy. Since completely avoiding environmental factors is virtually impossible, though, sufferers can consider medications (antihistamines, steroids, etc.) under the direction of a physician. While medications may treat the symptoms, though, they don’t address the underlying allergy. For conjunctivitis that lasts longer or that interferes significantly with quality of life, consider allergy immunotherapy through allergy shots or under-the-tongue drops. The “oral drops” version of immunotherapy has been found to be safer for kids than shots and can be prescribed for younger children than shots typically can.