Optometrists offer allergy relief suggestions

April 26, 2011 7:22:45 PM PDT
Heavy rains over the winter and into the spring have millions of allergy sufferers struggling. It is serious enough that the California Optometric Association is now offering advice to help patients protect their eyes.

As spring days go, it is a good one for Mona Armstrong. This time of year, she usually suffers allergies so severe she has trouble getting out of bed in the morning.

"I have really itchy eyes, I get a film over them when I blink. Some mornings when I wake up they're kind of stuck shut and I have to use compresses to get them open," Armstrong said.

Armstrong turned to San Francisco optometrist Elio Polsinelli for help. He says chronic itching can lead to more serious conditions unrelated to the original allergy if patients are constantly rubbing their eyes. It is a problem especially common with children who may have dirt or other germs on their hands.

"They are at risk of infections or spreading infections if they end up having a bacterial or other type of problem," Polsinelli said.

The California Optometric Association recommends cold compresses or ice cubes to reduce the itching and swelling, then a sterile saline solution to wash the eyes, and finally preservative-free eye drops, which sting less. However, they also recommend that allergy sufferers watch out for warning signs that could point to a more serious condition.

"If there's no signs that the swelling is going down or any itchiness is resolving, you should definitely come in," Polsinelli said. "If there's any sensitivity to light, that's an indication of maybe an inflammatory response. If there is any excessive discharge, if the child develops any fever."

A new generation of allergy medications can be given to children as young as 2 years old. One recent addition, called Lastacaft, is applied as an eye drop.

"Lastacaft is a new antihistamine that was recently FDA approved. It's supposed to relieve itchiness within three minutes," Polsinelli said.

The treatment, which is one of several options available by prescription, had an immediate effect for Armstrong, who says she can now function without the debilitating itching in her eyes.

"All the symptoms are gone and they're gone for the whole day," Armstrong said. "If you have my allergies, you know it's really uncomfortable."

For more information on how you can fight spring allergies, visit the links below:

Written and produced by Tim Didion

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