• by Dr. Z Aleksic

Spring-time Shenanigans: Soothing Hay Fever Eyes



The month of September falls into Spring in South Africa, therefore, as the seasons change and Summer rolls around, so do some unwanted symptoms...


  • Itchy, red or watery eyes

  • Bouts of congestion

  • Sneezing and a runny nose


The dreaded hay fever returns again only to affect certain people who will unfortunately experience some or all of the above symptoms. These symptoms are due to an allergic reaction to pollen. Our body’s natural response to this pollen is to try to wash the pollen out by flooding it with water, which is why some people get symptoms of watery eyes. Eyes can also become red, itchy, and sticky as the immune system reacts to the pollen in the body. Unfortunately, there is no overall cure for hay fever, but many people find that their symptoms tend to improve as they get older.



That being said, hay fever is generally very easy to manage and can be done so using these simple steps:

Step 1: Ask yourself: “What is it?”


The first part of combatting hay fever involves asking yourself: Is this actually hay fever?


The best way to answer this question is to assess how long you have been experiencing these symptoms. If it was only for one week, then it was probably a cold which you have been experiencing. If it persists for a longer time, then the chances are that it is, in fact, hay fever.

Step 2: Head to the Pharmacy


There are several over-the-counter options for hay fever and your nearest pharmacist should be able to assist you with selecting the best anti-histamine for you. Eye symptoms of hay fever, such as redness, itchy and watery eyes, can also be treated with eye-drops which can be used in partnership with the anti-histamines. You can also buy wraparound glasses to prevent pollen from getting into your eyes.


If you are waking up in the morning with puffy eyes, then you can also use a cold compress which can be bought from the pharmacy, or otherwise you could make a compress yourself using an ice pack and a tea-towel. The cold compress will help to soothe irritation and decrease the puffiness of your eyes. Close your eyes and apply the compress for 10 minutes.

Step 3: Keep it Clean


If you are allergic to pollen, the simplest answer is to get rid of it. Vacuum your home frequently and be sure to wipe surfaces down with a damp cloth, especially the ones near doors and windows. Shower when you get home, wash your hair every night and change your clothes after spending time outdoors to remove any pollen from your skin and hair. It will also help if you dry your washed clothes and sheets indoors during the peak pollen season.

Although I am loathe to advise people to stay indoors during the summertime, it may be best to stay indoors when the pollen count is high. Pollen is usually higher in the mornings than at night so this is something that you could work around if you are prone to very bad symptoms. Make this decision based on the extent of your symptoms. Keeping doors and windows closed will prevent any pollen from blowing into your house. It may also help to purchase a pollen filter for the air vents in your car. Finally, alcohol and smoking cigarettes may increase allergy symptoms and so it should be avoided when your hay fever is at its worst.



Step 4: Contact your Eye Doctor


If your eye symptoms from hay fever are getting worse, or if they are not improving with anti-histamines or over-the-counter eye drops, it is best to contact your eye doctor as soon as possible to acquire further treatment. Your eye doctor can then write a script for prescription eye-drops which can be taken either once or twice a day, depending on your needs. These are stronger and will help to relieve symptoms.


Extremely severe eye allergies can be treated by steroid eye drops, which will combat severe inflammation. It will soothe the eye area and relieve symptoms, but steroids do come with complications, so they need to be monitored. This is why they need to be prescribed by an eye doctor and used with caution.


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