4 min

KEEP AN EYEON HAY FEVER

RED, ITCHY AND WATERY EYES?

Hay fever is back. Haven’t your eyes seen enough over the past two years of screen stress and strain? You may already be experiencing itchy, red or watery eyes, as well as a blocked nose or coughing.

And if you’re ‘atopic’ – someone who suffers from eczema, asthma or other allergies – you’re more likely to suffer from hay fever.

The best way to stop it is to avoid pollen altogether which, let’s face it, isn’t realistic. But there are many other ways to counter the signs and signals that are produced by our bodies in response. Discover Alex's top tips, then read on for the science to learn how and why our bodies react this way.

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"In very simple terms, when you have hay fever, your body mistakes pollen as a threat - and fires up its defences in response"

ALEX IONIDES, CONSULTANT OPHTHALMIC SURGEON AT MOORFIELDS EYE HOSPITAL, CO-FOUNDER AT MTHK.

Alex’s top tips for hay fever
  • Antihistamine tablets offer effective relief against watery eyes and a runny nose by blocking the body’s production of histamine, which it does when it thinks it’s under attack.
  • Frequent use of allergy drops can help prevent hay fever as they soothe and stabilise the mast cells which cause itching and sneezing.
  • Sunglasses are often recommended as a preventative measure for hay fever. Go for a wraparound pair to help reduce pollen contact with your eyes.
  • A recent study found that those with hay fever who exercise regularly tend to have milder symptoms. Outdoor running and cycling are best done in the middle of the day when the pollen count is at its lowest
  • Try putting drops and sprays in the fridge before use for extra relief, especially in warm weather.
  • Use a high-quality eye spray to wash pollutants and allergens out of your eyes. Go for a preservative-free spray like MTHK’s Eye Spray, because preservatives in eye sprays and drops can cause allergies and irritation over time.
  • If you suffer from severe hay fever, you may be prescribed steroid drops by an ophthalmologist. Its use needs to be very closely monitored to make sure there’s no raised pressure in your eyes.
  • THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SYMPTOMS

    What actually happens to your eyes during hay fever? In very simple terms, when your body mistakes pollen as a threat it fires up its defences in response. Antibodies are released to fight the intruder, binding to two types of white blood cells that form part of your immune system: mast cells and basophils. This is the point at which the chemical reaction occurs and we get into molecular science: proteins in the antibodies trigger the cells to release histamine and other substances, which produce the inflammatory response in your body.

    Alex, breaks down the chain reaction: “When pollen sets off a cascade of inflammatory reactions, this triggers your body to go into self-defence mode. When the mast cells in your eyelids release histamine, the blood vessels leak fluid, protein and other inflammatory cells that result in the symptoms you’ll recognise as the onslaught of hay fever: redness, itching, and watery eyes to name a few.”

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    THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SYMPTOMS (CONT.)

    As the most common form of ocular (eye-related) allergy, hay fever tends to fester in your eyes in particular. On top of the mild symptoms above, you’re likely to experience burning, stinging and swelling in the eyelids and conjunctiva (the clear tissue that covers the surface of your eyeballs), which gives you a runny nose, constant sneezing, and even blurred vision.

    While hay fever can be incredibly irritating, it shouldn’t impact your ability to enjoy the summer months outdoors. Follow the tips above to see through hay fever season and keep your eyes in check.

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    “We diagnose it by seeing little lumps under the eyelids called papillae; aggregations of inflammatory cells that look like cobbled streets under your eyelids”

    ALEX IONIDES, CONSULTANT OPHTHALMIC SURGEON AT MOORFIELDS EYE HOSPITAL, CO-FOUNDER AT MTHK.

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