If you live in the Austin area, chances are you suffer from or know someone who suffers from, “Cedar Fever” during the months of December, January, and February. Cedar Fever is a term used to describe an allergic reaction to the pollen of the mountain cedar trees that are native to this area. An allergic reaction occurs when the body treats something that is normally harmless, like pollen, as if it were harmful to the body like a virus.
Allergy Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of eye allergies include redness, itching, burning, and watery eyes. Other common signs of allergies may include sneezing, itching, runny nose, coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and headache from sinus congestion.
The easiest treatment for allergies is to try to avoid coming in contact with the substance you are allergic to. If you know you are allergic to cedar pollen, it makes sense to keep the windows in your home closed and use central air conditioning or heat to filter the cedar pollen out of the air. You should also use air filters that are specifically designed for pollen and pet dander. Remember to change your filters out on a regular basis so they continue to work effectively. Consider an air purifier if you have allergies to indoor allergens such as dust mites, mold and pet dander. When riding in or driving your car, make sure to keep the windows rolled up and use the air conditioner.
Over the Counter Medications
There are many over the counter medications (OTC) that you can use to try and relieve your allergy symptoms. Some of these work quite well in the short term, but some may not be used for long periods of time.
Artificial tears have two uses in allergy relief. They may be used to flush pollens from the eye and they also are helpful in relieving the dry eye caused by oral antihistamines. Just a few examples include: Blink, Systane, Refresh Tears, Retaine, etc.
Decongestants are drops that “get the red out.” Decongestants work by making the blood vessels in your eye constrict or become smaller in diameter, thereby reducing your redness. They treat your symptoms only, not the underlying cause. In fact, your eyes may become redder, if they are used for more than a few days. This is called rebound redness. Examples include: Visine, Naphcon, Opcon.
Lumify is the newest drop for white eyes. This drop is derived from a glaucoma medication that also constricts blood vessels, however, it does it in a manner that does not cause rebound redness. The effects of Lumify last up to 8 hours and it should be used no more than four times a day. The danger of using Lumify, as with any of the other redness relievers, is that it can mask the underlying cause of redness.
Ketotifen fumarate ophthalmic solution 0.035% is an antihistamine eye drop that is available over the counter. Brand names for ketotifin are Alaway, Zaditor, Claritin Eye, Visine All Day Eye Itch Relief, Refresh Eye Itch Relief, and Zaditor. This drop should be used twice a day as needed for allergies. Never instill this drop while wearing contact lenses. You may use the drop before inserting your contact lenses as long as you wait a minimum of 15 minutes before inserting your lenses.
Other over the counter antihistamine eye drops are also available in combination with a decongestant to relieve redness. These include Naphcon A , Opcona A, and Visine A. The dosage for these drops is four times a day. This can be inconvenient for contact lens wearers since you should never instill any medication in your eye while wearing contact lenses. You must wait at least 15 minutes after instilling a drop before you insert your contact lenses.
When you visit your optometrist he or she has several treatment options available for combating allergens. Sometimes one or more medications may be prescribed to provide you with your optimum treatment regimen.
Mast Cell Stabilizer
Mast cell stabilizers can virtually prevent the outbreak of an allergic reaction. However, it may take several weeks before this type of medication may become effective. A mast cell stabilizer must be prescribed either before a person will be exposed to an allergen or in conjunction with another more quickly acting medication until it can become effective.
More convenient stronger once daily dosage drops are now available by prescription.
Sometimes it is necessary to prescribe stronger anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticosteroids if there is a large amount of inflammation present. These medications are generally not used for long periods of time since they can, on rare occasions, cause cataracts or increased eye pressure in susceptible individuals.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
As an alternative to corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to relieve the swelling and inflammation that may be associated with seasonal allergies. Many of the current NSAIDs on the market are very effective not only in relieving the inflammation associated with allergies but also the itching.
Suffer No More
If you normally suffer from Cedar Fever this time of year, there is no reason for you to tolerate this anymore. There are a number of treatment options available that can be tailored to your specific needs. Be sure to let your doctor know what you expect from your treatment and how intense your symptoms are. Is your allergy a first-time event or does it occur at the same time every year? Let your optometrist know if you are taking oral antihistamines. The better information you provide your doctor, the better the treatment plan he or she will be able to devise for you.