Flowering trees are a beautiful part of the spring landscape, but they sure can flare up eye allergies! Watery, red, itchy eyes are common symptoms of an allergic reaction to particles such as pollen in the environment. There are several types of allergens in the spring, and flowering trees are not the only culprits. Here are a few of the usual suspects you can blame for your discomfort this season:
Pollen from Trees, Grass and Weeds
The most common outdoor allergen is pollen, which is released by trees, grasses and weeds in the spring and fall. With each breeze, billions of microscopic particles of pollen become airborne. When pollen is inhaled or contacts the eyes, it can cause your immune system to attack the foreign substance with chemicals in the blood. These are known as histamines, and they trigger that familiar itchy redness and inflammation.
If your allergies are most severe in the springtime, be aware of maple, elm, cedar, birch and ash trees that pollinate in the milder weather.
There are hundreds of varieties of grasses, and they all reproduce by releasing pollen. Grasses that often trigger allergies include Bermuda, Johnson, Kentucky, Orchard, Rye, Redtop and Timothy.
As for weeds, it might be ragweed, sagebrush, pigweed, lamb’s quarters or tumbleweed that’s making you sniffle, sneeze and itch.
There are nearly 1,000 species of mold in the U.S. It can grow on dead leaves and grass or rotting wood, but it can also grow inside – in bathrooms, laundry rooms or basements. Some mold can survive in dry, hot conditions, but most mold thrives in cool, rainy environments. Mold can grow very rapidly, especially when conditions are ideal. Symptoms of mold allergy are similar to pollen allergy, so it’s important to pay attention to daily activities and pollen/mold counts to determine the cause of an allergy attack.
How to Protect Against Eye Allergies
Even if you know what allergen aggravates your symptoms, it is impossible to avoid it completely. However, there are a few steps you can take to minimize your exposure to allergens:
- Learn to identify the worst pollen perpetrators by sight and avoid them when possible.
- Monitor pollen counts before scheduling outdoor activities.
- Go outside at a time of day when the plants that bother your eyes are not releasing pollen. Grasses reach their peak pollen levels in afternoon hours, and mold species often release their spores at night when the temperatures are cooler.
- Wear protective gear like safety goggles and dust masks when you are outdoors doing yardwork.
Make an appointment with one of our board-certified ophthalmologists to talk about more ways to protect your eyes from spring allergens. Don’t forget to schedule a complete eye exam annually for optimal eye health.