What causes sudden eye allergies

By Every About Vision

Eye allergies — red, itchy, watery eyes that are bothered by the same irritants (allergens) that cause sneezing and a runny nose among seasonal allergy sufferers — are extremely common.

Eye allergies (also called ocular allergies) also appear to be on the rise worldwide. In specific, increases in environmental pollution in industrialized and developing nations appears to be a major contributor to the heightened sensitivity of allergic individuals and the increasing numbers of people suffering from ocular allergies.

In addition to symptoms of sneezing, congestion and a runny nose, most of these allergy sufferers also experience itchy eyes, water eyes, red eyes and swollen eyelids.

In some cases, eye allergies can frolic a role in conjunctivitis (pink eye) and other eye infections.

If you ponder you own eye allergies, here are a few things you should know — including helpful tips on how to get relief from your red, itchy, watery eyes.

What causes eye allergies

Normally harmless substances that cause problems for individuals who are predisposed to allergic reactions are called allergens.

The most common airborne allergens that cause eye allergies are pollen, mold, dust and pet dander.

Eye allergies also can be caused by reactions to certain cosmetics or eye drops, including artificial tears used for treating dry eyes that contain preservatives.

Food allergies and allergic reactions to bee stings or other insect bites typically do not affect the eyes as severely as airborne allergens do.

Eye allergies and contact lenses

Contact lens discomfort is a common complaint during allergy season, leading some wearers to question whether they are becoming allergic to contact lenses.

The issue of being allergic to contacts also comes up from time to time when a person starts wearing silicone hydrogel contact lenses after successfully wearing standard soft (hydrogel) contact lenses and experiences allergy-like symptoms.

Studies own shown that the culprit behind eye allergies associated with contact lens wear is not an allergic reaction to the contact lens itself, but to substances that accumulate on the surface of the lenses.

In the case of switching from regular soft contacts to silicone hydrogel lenses, the surface and chemical characteristics of the lens material may attract lens deposits more readily than the previous lens material, causing discomfort.

Many eye doctors believe the best type of soft contact lenses for people prone to eye allergies are daily disposable lenses that are discarded after a single use, which decreases the buildup of allergens and other debris on the lens surface.

Silicone hydrogel often is the preferred lens material for these lenses, because it allows significantly more oxygen to pass through the lens, compared with conventional soft contact lens materials.

What causes sudden eye allergies

Eye allergy relief

To get relief from your eye allergies and itchy, watery eyes, you can take a few approaches:

Avoiding allergens.  The best approach to controlling your eye allergy symptoms is to do everything you can to limit your exposure to common allergens you are sensitive to.

For example, on days when the pollen count is high, stay indoors as much as possible, with the air conditioner running to filter the air. Use high quality furnace filters that can trap common allergens and replace the filters frequently.

When you do go outdoors during allergy season, wear wraparound sunglasses to assist shield your eyes from pollen, ragweed, etc., and drive with your windows closed.

Removing your contacts.  Because the surface of contact lenses can attract airborne allergens, consider reducing your contact lens wear during allergy season.

Or consider switching to daily disposable contacts that you discard after a single use to prevent allergens and other debris from accumulating on the lenses.

Often the best choice if allergies are bothering your eyes is to discontinue wearing contacts altogether — at least until every your allergy symptoms are gone. Also, wearing eyeglasses with photochromic lenses can reduce allergy-related sensitivity to light and can assist shield your eyes from airborne allergens.

Over-the counter eye drops. Because eye allergies are so common, there are a number of brands of non-prescription eye drops available that are formulated to relieve itchiness, redness and watery eyes caused by allergies.

If your eye allergy symptoms are relatively mild, non-prescription eye drops for allergy relief may work extremely well for you.

What causes sudden eye allergies

These also may be less expensive than prescription eye drops or other medications. Enquire your eye doctor for recommendations.

Prescription medications. If your allergy symptoms are relatively severe or over-the-counter eye drops are ineffective at providing relief, you may need your eye doctor to prescribe a stronger medication.

Prescription eye drops and oral medications used to relieve eye allergies include:

  1. Antihistamines. Part of the body's natural allergic response is the release of histamine, a substance that dilates blood vessels and making the walls of blood vessels abnormally permeable.

    Symptoms caused by histamine include a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. Antihistamines reduce allergic reactions by blocking the attachment of histamine to cells in the body that produce an allergic response.

  1. Decongestants. Decongestants assist shrink swollen nasal passages for easier breathing.

    What causes sudden eye allergies

    They also reduce the size of blood vessels on the white (sclera) of the eye to relieve red eyes. Common decongestants include phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine. Combination drugs are available that contain both an antihistamine and a decongestant.

  1. Mast cell stabilizers. These medications cause changes in mast cells that prevent them from releasing of histamine and related mediators of allergic reactions. Because it may take several weeks for the full effects of mast cell stabilizers to take effect, these medications are best used before allergy season starts as a method to prevent or reduce the severity of future allergic reactions (rather than to treat acute allergic symptoms that already exist).
  1. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAID eye drops may be prescribed to decrease swelling, inflammation and other symptoms associated with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, also called hay fever.
  1. Steroids. Corticosteroid eye drops are sometimes prescribed to provide relief from acute eye allergy symptoms.

    But potential side effects of long-term use of these medications include high eye pressure, glaucoma and cataracts, so they typically are prescribed for short-term use only.

Immunotherapy. This is a treatment where an allergy specialist injects you with little amounts of allergens to assist you gradually build up immunity.

Schedule an eye exam.

Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)

In rare cases, an allergy can lead to a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, which can be life threatening.

This affects the whole body and usually develops within minutes of exposure to something you’re allergic to.

Signs of anaphylaxis include any of the symptoms above, as well as:

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.

Read more about anaphylaxis for information about what to do if it occurs.

Sheet final reviewed: 22 November 2018
Next review due: 22 November 2021

Allergic reactions are common. The immune response that causes an allergic reaction is similar to the response that causes hay fever. Most reactions happen soon after contact with an allergen.

Many allergic reactions are mild, while others can be severe and life threatening.

They can be confined to a little area of the body, or they may affect the entire body. The most severe form is called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock. Allergic reactions happen more often in people who own a family history of allergies.

Substances that don’t annoy most people (such as venom from bee stings and certain foods, medicines, and pollens) can trigger allergic reactions in certain people.

First-time exposure may produce only a mild reaction. Repeated exposures may lead to more serious reactions. Once a person has had an exposure or an allergic reaction (is sensitized), even a extremely limited exposure to a extremely little quantity of allergen can trigger a severe reaction.

Most severe allergic reactions happen within seconds or minutes after exposure to the allergen.

Some reactions can happen after several hours, particularly if the allergen causes a reaction after it has been eaten. In extremely rare cases, reactions develop after 24 hours.

Anaphylaxis is a sudden and severe allergic reaction that occurs within minutes of exposure. Immediate medical attention is needed for this condition. Without treatment, anaphylaxis can get worse extremely quickly and lead to death within 15 minutes.

Allergies may be felt in diverse ways: a reaction affecting the eyes, nose, lungs or skin. When the nose is affected, it is called rhinitis; conjunctivitis affects the eyes and asthma the lungs.

Allergic rhinitis, such as “hay fever”, often involves symptoms such as sneezing and a blocked or itchy nose.

What causes sudden eye allergies

The symptoms of conjunctivitis involve a red eye, which may be watery or itchy. An asthmatic may just own a cough but may also own more severe symptoms such as significant difficulty in breathing.


You need to be particularly careful if the allergic reaction is severe, especially if it leads to respiratory symptoms. Asthma may just involve a cough to start or being slightly out of breath, but it may become worse and lead to difficulty in breathing.


The most effective treatment is, of course, to avoid the relevant allergen, if possible.

If you are allergic to an animal, attempt to avoid contact with that animal. If you are allergic to dust mites, restrict contact with dust. You can discover detailed advice on the Swiss Allergy Centre website www.aha.ch.

As regards medicinal treatment, three diverse types of medicine can be used to relieve rhino-conjunctivitis. You can use eye drops or a nasal spray. An oral antihistamine may also be necessary.

What causes sudden eye allergies

These treatments can be taken individually or, if the allergic reaction is severe, simultaneously.

In some cases, the doctor may propose desensitisation. This is a treatment, which aims to cure the person’s allergy. This treatment takes several years and can be used for allergies to pollen, dust mites and insect venom (bees, wasps).


Allergies are a hypersensitive reaction to molecules which are called allergens. There are two types of allergen: those that cause seasonal reactions and those that create a reaction every year long.

Seasonal allergies are caused by tree, grass and herbaceous pollen, while annual allergies are caused by dust mites, mould and animal hair.

Seasonal rhinitis and conjunctivitis and those linked to occasional exposure to an animal own more sudden symptoms, such as sneezing and a runny nose, whereas annual allergies generally involve a blocked nose.

For further information

You can discover a lot of information on the Swiss Allergy Centre website aha.ch.

There is a sheet on pollen allergies, and another on animal-related allergies.

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Weird but true: That same ancient eye makeup you’ve been using since practically forever can suddenly turn on you, creating itchiness, puffiness, and plenty of other not-so-fun symptoms. You’d ponder that if a certain makeup ingredient didn’t consent with the delicate skin around your eyes, you’d know it immediately. But reactions to cosmetics can develop over time with repeated exposure, Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist/immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network and NYU Langone Health, tells SELF.


Read on to study more about why these delayed reactions can happen, plus what to do if your cosmetics make your eyes act out.

If you own a negative reaction to eye makeup, you can probably blame a condition called contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis is an itchy, inflamed skin reaction that happens after you encounter something that aggravates your skin or immune system in some way, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It isn’t contagious or life-threatening, but it is annoying—especially when it’s correct there on your face.

Contact dermatitis is generally divided into two categories, according to the Mayo Clinic. Irritant contact dermatitis, which is the more common form, happens when a substance is harsh enough to damage your outer layer of skin. Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis, on the other hand, kick in when your immune system overreacts to something.

Certain substances are common culprits behind irritant contact dermatitis, love rubbing alcohol, bleach, and detergents.

Others are well-known allergens, such as nickel, medications love antihistamines, and airborne matter love pollen.

But some things can cause either irritant or allergic contact dermatitis, love certain plants, soaps and body washes, and…cosmetics. Whether you own irritant or allergic contact dermatitis, you might exhibit symptoms immediately, or it might take multiple exposures over time—even years—for your body to finally be love, I’m actually not a fan of this at every, and you’re about to discover out in a large way.

Your eye makeup can cause either helpful of contact dermatitis, but your symptoms may differ slightly depending on which one you have.

One of the biggest signs of irritant contact dermatitis is skin peeling, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

But it can also cause symptoms that might mimic other conditions, love dry eye—think: stinging, burning, redness, and excessive tearing. It can be especially confusing if you’re using makeup that’s never given you a problem before and you own other dry eye risk factors, such as using contact lenses or working at a computer every day.

In contrast, allergic contact dermatitis from repeated makeup use will generally cause itchiness and a rash that may glance love eczema, the AAAAI says. Meaning, the skin around your eyes may become dry, scaly, or even form tiny cracks if you scratch it.

These reactions can bubble up in response to any eye makeup ingredient.

With that said, some of the most common offenders are perfume (especially balsam of Peru), parabens (used to preserve some cosmetics), quaternium-15 (another preservative), propylene glycol (used to maintain moisture in cosmetics), and lanolin (a moisturizing fat sourced from sheep’s wool), Princess Ogbogu, M.D., director of allergy and immunology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Middle, tells SELF.

If you develop a weird reaction on your face and you suspect that it’s due to your makeup, stop using that product immediately, Dr.

What causes sudden eye allergies

Ogbogu says.

Beyond that, doctors generally recommend addressing contact dermatitis with a non-prescription anti-itch treatment, love 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, but this isn’t considered safe around your sensitive eyes, Dr. Parikh says.

Eye Conditions

Main allergy symptoms

Common symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  1. swollen lips, tongue, eyes or face
  2. a raised, itchy, red rash (hives)
  3. sneezing and an itchy, runny or blocked nose (allergic rhinitis)
  4. itchy, red, watering eyes (conjunctivitis)
  5. wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and a cough
  6. tummy pain, feeling ill, vomiting or diarrhoea
  7. dry, red and cracked skin

The symptoms vary depending on what you’re allergic to and how you come into contact with it.

For example, you may have a runny nose if exposed to pollen, develop a rash if you own a skin allergy, or feel sick if you eat something you’re allergic to.

See your GP if you or your kid might own had an allergic reaction to something.

What causes sudden eye allergies

They can assist determine whether the symptoms are caused by an allergy or another condition.

Read more about diagnosing allergies.