KEEP AN EYEON HAY FEVER
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.
"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.
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.”
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.