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Eye allergies are no different than allergies that affect your sinuses, nose or lungs. When an allergen comes in contact with your eyes, your body releases histamine – a chemical produced in reaction to a substance that the immune system can’t tolerate. Special cells called mast cells make histamine. These cells are present throughout the body but are highly concentrated in the eyes.

Ocular allergens tend to be airborne (as are most other allergens). The most frequent allergic triggers include Pollen, pet hair or dander, dust, and some medicines. When ocular allergies can’t be controlled, there are several medications that may help relieve symptoms. Most of these treatments come in a topical form – such as eye drops or an ointment.

Eye drops can help in two ways: (1) by physically washing away allergens; and (2) by moistening the eye, which can become dry and red when irritated. Eye drops that contain medications to help reduce allergy symptoms also are available.

Some tips for controlling allergies: Try to avoid being outside when the pollen count is particularly high (check your local paper or the Internet.) Keep doors and windows shut to keep pollen out; use air filters indoors, and vacuum regularly; try not to rub your eyes-this can make irritation worse and increases risk of infection; over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, nasal sprays, and eye drops can help; if your allergies are severe or home remedies don’t help, consult your physician.

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