Spring allergies hit many areas in the country earlier than usual this year – and they’re forecasted to last longer, too, due to the warm, mild winter many areas experienced. And Dallas allergy-sufferers get hit especially hard — in 2013, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) ranked Dallas the 23rd worst big city in the country for spring allergies, even worse than San Antonio, Houston and Austin. And if you think allergies in North Texas are getting worse, it’s not all in your head – the year before, Dallas was 24th on the list.
The cities were ranked based on three factors: pollen counts, number of medications per patient in the city and number of allergy treatment centers per patient in the area.
New York-based allergist Dr. Cliff Bassett, a fellow with the AAFA, told the Weather Channel that he predicts a “robust tree and grass season, which will carry all the way into early to mid-summer.” Basset also predicts that this year’s fall allergy season will last 25-30 days longer than usual.
Spring allergies affect people in different ways, usually causing a number of uncomfortable and annoying symptoms including sneezing and congestion. They also cause irritating and sometimes even painful symptoms in the eyes.
As trees and plants begin to bloom and their pollen is released into the air, your conjunctiva, or the tissue lining that covers the white surface of your eyes, may become irritated. This reaction causes a release of histamine, which may result in an itching or burning sensation, redness, watering, dry eyes, blurred vision, eye swelling or even sensitivity to light. Although rare, in severe cases, complications from eye allergies may even damage your eyesight.
People who wear contact lenses may experience even more irritating or painful effects of spring allergies, since contact lenses can trap in. Then the lenses themselves can also add to the discomfort of dry, itchy or red eyes.
Though it may not be possible to completely protect yourself from exposure to pollen during the springtime, there are some ways to help prevent and relieve symptoms of spring allergies.
- Apply a cold compress to puffy or swollen eyes for temporary relief.
- If you wear contact lenses, practice proper lens care and change your lenses regularly.
- Do not share contact lenses or cases with others.
- Do not rub or touch your eyes, even when they itch. Doing so may cause the release of even more allergy-triggering chemicals. Instead, get some over-the-counter eye drops or (if necessary) prescription drops to help with burning and itching.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Change your sheets and pillowcases often, as allergens will stick to bedding.
- Wearing eyeglasses or sunglasses blocks pollen from getting into your eyes.
- When pollen counts are high, stay indoors and keep the windows in your
home closed to reduce the amount of pollen and other allergens in your home.
- Wash your hair regularly if you spend very much time outside (especially women or those with long hair).
- If your eyes are irritated from allergies, avoid wearing eye makeup until the symptoms have cleared.
Other eye conditions such as dry eyes, conjunctivitis and tear-duct obstruction due to infection are sometimes confused with the symptoms of allergies. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of eye allergies, only your doctor will be able to tell you if your symptoms are in fact caused by an allergic reaction. Contact Key-Whitman to schedule an
eye exam today to ensure your symptoms is not caused by an infection or more serious problem.