Hay fever symptoms: How to tell your itchy eyes are a sign of a more serious condition

Hay fever has regrettably landed in the UK and for many people, the allergic response may have already kicked in. One of the most common symptoms is red, itchy, watery eyes, which is usually the result of coming into contact pollen, a fine powder produced by flowers. If you are experiencing this symptom, taking an antihistamine and eye drops should help to alleviate the discomfort.

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If the usual treatments do not provide relief, it may indicate that there is a more serious underlying cause.

According to Dr Diana Gall from Doctor 4 U, in some cases, itchy eyes could indicate an eye infection.

How to tell if you have an eye infection

“With eye infections, the itchiness will usually be accompanied by pain, and a thick, mucus-like discharge, your eyelids may stick together particularly when you wake up,” said Dr Gall.

As she explained, this could be a sign of conjunctivitis.

“Conjunctivitis can be caused by both an infection or allergies, but when the eyes are red and sticky with pus this means it’s likely to be a contagious bacterial or viral infection rather than allergy related,” said Dr Gall.

Other telltale signs your itchy eyes could be more serious than hay fever

According to Dr Gall, itchiness alone is not something to be too concerned about unless it’s severe and persistent, in which case, you may need to see your GP. It’s important not to scratch or rub the eyes as this could lead to infection.

“Symptoms such as severe pain in the eyes, intense redness particularly in one eye, vision loss, or any visual disturbances such as flashing lights or wavy lines appearing in your field of vision will need medical attention as they’re a sign of a more serious eye problem,” she warned.

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These symptoms could be a sign of retinal detachment where the nerve at the back of the eye (retina) detaches, and this could be caused by injury to the eye or diseases such as glaucoma, said Dr Gall.

As a general rule, pain, any visual changes, intense redness, and discharge coming from the eyes indicate something more serious, and it should be addressed by a doctor or eye specialist to prevent any further, long term damage to the eyes, added Dr Gall.

General tips to alleviate hay fever

“To avoid irritation, try putting a balm like Vaseline around the nose to trap pollen, and vacuum and dust your home regularly, or you can try over-the-counter allergy relief,” advised Giles Edmonds, Clinical Services Director at Specsavers

He continued: “Staying inside when the pollen count is high will also help to avoid irritation, and showering and changing your clothes when you get home will help to remove pollen from skin and hair.

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“Staying inside when the pollen count is high will also help to avoid irritation, and showering and changing your clothes when you get home will help to remove pollen from skin and hair.”

If hay fever persists, your GP might prescribe steroids.

“If steroids and other hay fever treatments do not work, your GP may refer you for immunotherapy,” explains the NHS.

This means you’ll be given small amounts of pollen as an injection or tablet to slowly build up your immunity to pollen.

According to the NHS, this kind of treatment usually starts in the winter about three months before the hay fever season begins, however.

What causes hay fever?

According to Allergy UK, it is caused when the body makes allergic antibodies (IgE) to certain substances, such as pollen, house dust mites or mould, which are known as allergens.

“Grass pollen is the most common allergen (May to July), but tree (February to June) and weed (June to September) pollens can also cause the allergic reaction we know as hay fever,” explains the health body.

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