What to do about swollen eyes from allergies

  1. if you own significant swelling of the eyes
  2. if the person with the eye problem is a baby, young kid, or elderly
  3. if you ponder the problem was caused by something stuck in your eye
  4. if your eyes are painful, sensitive to light, you see colour around lights, or your sight is affected
  5. if you are pregnant or breastfeeding; some medicines may not be suitable
  6. if your eyes do not reply to treatment, or do not improve in 2 days
  7. if only one eye is affected
  8. if you own had the problem before
  9. if your eyes own a discharge, such as pus
  10. if you own other symptoms, such as headache, vomiting or a rash
  11. if you own a freezing sore, herpes or shingles
  12. if you own other medical conditions or use other medicines
  13. if you own strangely shaped pupils or cloudy eyes
  14. if you own allergies to any medicines
  15. if you wear contact lenses

Most eyelid problems are harmless

Many eyelid problems are not serious.

It’s fairly common to own any of these problems:

  1. a lump that goes away by itself after 3 or 4 weeks
  2. twitching or blinking from time to time – often when you’re tired
  3. swelling from a nearby insect bite, injury or operation that goes away after a week or so
  4. mildly itchy, flaky or sticky eyelids that clear up by themselves
  5. eyelids that droop (or get more «hooded») as you grow older

Treatment Options

Oral antihistamines (tablets and syrups)

  • when you own an allergic reaction your body releases histamine, which leads to hay fever.

    Antihistamines block this reaction. There are two types:

    1. newer, less sedating antihistamines, which do not typically cause drowsiness
    2. older sedating antihistamines that cause drowsiness
    3. antihistamines are excellent for treating hay fever symptoms as they happen, especially if you own a lot of diverse symptoms.

      What to do about swollen eyes from allergies

      You can also take them in advance if you know you are going to be exposed to allergens or triggers

    Other eye drops, to prevent allergy symptoms

    e.g. cromoglycate (Cromolux Eye Drops, Opticrom), lodoxamide (Lomide Eye Drops 0.1%)

    1. these prevent allergic reactions in the eyes and need to be used 4 to 6 times per day, depending on the ingredient, for the entire time you are exposed to triggers, such as during spring

    Antihistamine and mast cell stabiliser eye drops

    1. histamine is released from mast cells when you own an allergic reaction, which leads to hayfever.

      What to do about swollen eyes from allergies

      Mast cell stabiliser medicines assist reduce this histamine release, and so reduce allergic reactions and hayfever


    e.g. ketotifen (Zaditen)

    Allergic conjunctivitis

    1. avoid triggers (e.g.

      What to do about swollen eyes from allergies

      pollen, animal dander) where possible

    2. apply a freezing flannel or lubricating eye drops to soothe eyes

    Antibacterial eye drops and ointment

    e.g. propamidine (Brolene Eye Drops)


    e.g. chloramphenicol (Chloromycetin Eye Ointment and Drops, Chlorsig Eye Ointment and Drops, Minims Chloramphenicol 0.5% Eye Drops), sulphacetamide (Bleph-10 Eye Drops)

    1. continue using treatment until 24 hours after your conjunctivitis has cleared
    2. some people may be allergic to the contents of eye drops, so check with your pharmacist before taking
    3. for the best effect use drops or ointment every few hours, according to instructions, and clean away discharge before applying
    4. bacterial conjunctivitis can resolve without treatment; however, antibacterial eye drops or ointments may speed your recovery
    5. if conjunctivitis persists, see your doctor for further treatment
    6. eye ointment may temporarily blur vision, so it may be better to use it in the evening
    7. some of these drops or ointments should be avoided in pregnancy

    Antihistamine eye drops


    azelastine (Eyezep Eye Drops), levocabastine (Livostin Eye Drops, Zyrtec Levocabastine Eye Drops)

    Antihistamines (to treat and prevent symptoms)

    1. allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with antihistamine tablets or eye drops.
    2. when you own an allergic reaction your body releases histamine, which leads to ‘allergic’ symptoms
    3. you can prevent and/or treat the allergic reaction by taking antihistamines when you are around triggers, such as pollen or pet dander

    Combination eye drops including decongestant


    naphazoline + antazoline (Antistine-Privine, Albalon-A), pheniramine + naphazoline (Visine Allergy with Antihistamine, Naphcon-A)

    1. some eye drops contain an antihistamine (such as pheniramine, antazoline) to stop itching, and a decongestant (such as naphazoline) to take away redness
    2. some eye drops cause temporary stinging
    3. limit use of combination eye drops to no more than 5 to 7 days to avoid a ‘rebound’ redness from overuse

    Older, sedating antihistamines

    e.g. chlorpheniramine + pseudoephedrine (Demazin 6 Hour Relief Tablets), dexchlorpheniramine (Polaramine), loratadine + pseudoephedrine (Claratyne-D with Decongestant Repetabs), promethazine (Phenergan, Sandoz Fenezal)

    1. not available without a prescription for children under 2 years old
    2. sedating antihistamines are not suitable for everyone; check with your pharmacist.
    3. do not drink alcohol with medicines that make you drowsy
    4. these medicines can cause drowsiness, sometimes the next day; it is significant you do not drive or operate machinery
    5. if you own other medical conditions, such as glaucoma, epilepsy or prostate problems, or you take antidepressants, check with your pharmacist before taking these medicines

    Bacterial conjunctivitis

    1. bathe eyelids with warm water or saline, and use warm face cloths
    2. do not use decongestant eye drops as they can mask redness and infection
    3. dispose of tissues carefully
    4. do not share face cloths, towels or eye drops
    5. children should be excluded from school until the infection subsides

    Newer, less-sedating antihistamines


    cetirizine (ZepAllergy, Zilarex, Zyrtec), desloratadine (Aerius), fexofenadine (Fexotabs, Telfast), loratadine (Claratyne, Lorano)

    1. cetirizine and loratadine are available as syrups for children; check correct doses for diverse age groups
    2. newer antihistamines may rarely cause drowsiness; do not drive or operate machinery if you are affected. Cetirizine is more likely to cause drowsiness than other less sedating antihistamines

    e.g. fexofenadine + pseudoephedrine (Telfast Decongestant)

    Viral conjunctivitis

    1. don’t share face cloths, towels or eye drops
    2. dispose of tissues carefully
    3. apply a freezing face cloth or lubricating eye drops to soothe eyes

    Lubricant eye drops and gels


    Albalon Relief, Bion Tears, Blink Intensive Tears, Cellufresh, Celluvisc, GelTears, Genteal Gel, Genteal Lubricant Eye Drops, HPMC PAA, Hylo-Forte, In A Wink Moisturising Eye Drops, Liquifilm Forte, Liquifilm Tears, Lux Clean, Luxyal, Luxyal Monodose, Methopt, Murine Eye Drops, Murine Revital Eyes, Murine Tears, Optifresh, Optive, Optrex Eye Drops, PAA, Poly Gel Lubricating Eye Gel, Poly-Tears, PVA Forte, PVA Tears, Refresh, Refresh Contacts, Refresh Liquigel, Refresh Plus, Refresh Tears Plus, Rohto Zi Contact Eye Drops, Rohto Zi Unused Eye Drops, Systane, Tears Again, Tears Naturale, TheraTears, Viscotears, Visine Professional, Vistil, Vistil Forte

    1. viral conjunctivitis generally resolves by itself
    2. lubricating eye drops and bathing of the eyes can be soothing
    3. topical decongestant eye drops may help

    Causes of eyelid problems

    Your symptoms might give you an thought of the cause.

    What to do about swollen eyes from allergies

    Do not self-diagnose – see your GP if you’re worried.

    Sheet final reviewed: 8 September 2017
    Next review due: 8 September 2020

    Whether you're out in the unused spring air or cleaning your dusty basement, allergens run amok throughout the year. They trigger allergy symptoms love coughing, sneezing, stuffy and runny nose — and swollen eyes. Allergies can cause the eyes to swell and become red, itchy, watery, and really uncomfortable.

    "The reason people own swollen eyes … from allergies is they're getting contact in the eyes from airborne allergens," says Princess Ogbogu, MD, assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine in the division of pulmonary, allergy, critical care, and sleep medicine.

    "Basically, what happens is that when the allergens hit your eyes, they sort of dissolve in your tears," says Dr.

    Ogbogu. "They own contact with the lining of the eye [the conjunctiva], and they react with antibodies that are bound to cells in your eyes," she says. These antibodies cause the body to release histamine — which also causes nasal congestion that often accompanies swollen eyes.

    The allergens doing this damage include outdoor allergens love pollen and molds and indoor allergens such as cat and dog allergens, and indoor molds.

    General Information

    Redness and inflammation of the eye has been reported as being the most common eye problem in Australia.

    What to do about swollen eyes from allergies

    A major cause of eye problems is conjunctivitis, which is an inflammation of the ‘conjunctiva’ (the thin clear tissue that lines that inner eyelids and covers the white part of the eyeball).

    There are 3 main types of conjunctivitis: allergic, bacterial and viral. They can be hard to tell apart, and each is treated differently. Irritant conjunctivitis can also happen due to dryness and/or foreign matter in the eye.

    What to do about swollen eyes from allergies

    Always seek medical advice if you own red or painful eyes, loss of vision, irregular shaped pupils or there is unusual discharge.

    Allergic conjunctivitis

    Allergic conjunctivitis is generally caused by triggers, such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander (hair and dead skin cells from animals), cosmetics or preservatives in eye drops. Symptoms include:

    1. itchy, burning, sore, red eyes with puffy eyelids
    2. sensitivity to light
    3. watery eyes
    4. dark pouches under eyes
    5. other symptoms of allergy, such as sneezing and a blocked or runny nose

    Bacterial conjunctivitis

    Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria and is extremely contagious, commonly infecting other family members.

    Symptoms, which may start suddenly and may affect one eye before the other, include:

    1. swelling of the eyelid
    2. eyelids may be stuck together when you wake up, or there may be yellow discharge coming from your eyes.
    3. red, burning, sore or gritty eyes with puffy eyelids
    4. there are generally no other symptoms associated with bacterial conjunctivitis

    Viral conjunctivitis

    Viral conjunctivitis is caused by a virus and is contagious. Sometimes it is accompanied by freezing or flu symptoms.

    What to do about swollen eyes from allergies

    Symptoms include:

    1. red, sore, watery or gritty eyes
    2. itchy and swollen eyes
    3. crusty eyelids

    How a pharmacist can assist with eyelid problems

    A pharmacist might be capable to tell you:

    1. what you can do to treat it yourself
    2. if you can purchase anything to assist, for example cleaning solutions for sticky eyelids
    3. if you need to see an optician or GP

    Find a pharmacy

    Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

    1. you ponder it’s an allergic reaction
    2. you own a rash on your body as well as lumps on your eyelids
    3. your eyelid is painful or you’re in a lot of discomfort
    4. you’re worried about an eyelid problem
    5. you own a extremely high temperature, or feel boiling and shivery, or you generally feel unwell
    6. it’s getting worse or lasting a endless time
    7. you own yellow lumps or patches around your eyes
    8. the side of your neck, armpits or groin feel swollen and painful (swollen lymph nodes)

    Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if:

    1. the pain is in your eye (not your eyelid)
    2. your mouth or tongue is swollen
    3. your eyesight changes – for example, you see wavy lines or flashing
    4. your swollen eyelid is red, boiling, painful, tender or blistered
    5. you’re lightheaded or confused
    6. you’re sensitive to light (photophobia)
    7. your eyelid droops suddenly
    8. you own difficulty breathing
    9. the white of your eye is extremely red, in part or every over
    10. you feel faint or love you might collapse
    11. you own blue skin or lips

    111 will tell you what to do.

    They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

    Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

    Treatment Tips

    1. do not wear contact lenses with some eye drops; check with your pharmacist
    2. some eye drops can cause temporary stinging, if this continues, talk to your pharmacist
    3. if you are using more than one type of eye drops, leave 10 minutes between applications
    4. do not wear contact lenses if you own an eye infection, such as conjunctivitis
    5. protect your eyes from wind and sun by wearing sunglasses
    6. throw eye drop bottles away one month after opening; mark the date you open them on the bottle (check product details as some eye drops can only be used for shorter periods)
    7. simple analgesics such as paracetamol may help in relieving the pain associated with viral conjunctivitis

    Tips for applying eye drops

    1. pull your lower eyelid below gently with your index finger to form a pocket; tilt your head back slightly and glance up
    2. close your eye and press gently over the corner, near your nose, to stop the drops draining through your tear duct
    3. try not to blink straightaway, as this draws eye drops into the tear duct and out of the eye
    4. always wash your hands first
    5. apply only one drop at a time into the affected eye(s) unless the first drop was incorrectly istered
    6. do not touch your eye with the dropper tip
    7. hold the bottle between your thumb and index finger and squeeze gently to release one drop into your eye pocket
    8. wait 10 minutes before adding other eye products
    9. use eye drops before eye ointment

    Tips for applying eye ointment

    1. hold the tube between your thumb and index finger and relax your hand against the base of your nose, to position the tube tip
    2. apply a little blob of ointment into your lower eyelid pocket
    3. do not touch the eye with the tube tip


    What to do about swollen eyes from allergies