There are several things you can do to improve your symptoms, including:
- not rubbing your eyes
- washing your eyes with cold water
- using cold packs or cold compresses on your eyes to soothe symptoms
- not wearing contact lens until your symptoms have cleared up
- using eye drops
- consider taking antihistamines if you have hay fever.
Identify and remove the cause
If you have worked out what allergen or irritant is causing your symptoms, you need to minimise your risk of exposure to it, and where possible, remove it. For example, removing carpet, using barrier encasing of your pillows and mattress, or washing bedding in hot water to remove house dust mites. Read more about how to prevent allergic reactions in the specific section on the allergies page.
Bathe your eyes with cold water, or apply cold-water compress
Mild symptoms can be managed with bathing your eyes with cold water, or applying cold-water compress to the eye. The cold restricts circulation and will help calm down the inflammation that is associated with eye allergies.
- You can make a cold compress by dipping a flannel (face towel) in cold water, gently squeezing out some of the water and applying the cool flannel over your eyes. Repeatedly re-soak the towel to keep it cool or cold, until you get relief (10 to 20 minutes).
- If you apply a homemade compress using as a bag of ice, wrap the ice in a small towel or cloth. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin. It can cause frostbite.
How to wash your eyes
- Before touching your eyes, wash your hands with soap and warm water.
- Dry hands with a clean or disposable towel.
- Clean away any crusting or discharge with a disposable cotton swab and cooled boiled water. Don't use cotton wool balls because they can unravel, leaving cotton in your eye. Surgical swabs from your chemist or disposable eye make-up removal pads are best.
Use eye drops
There's a range of different types of eye drops used for eye allergies such as antihistamines and mast cell stabilisers. Some offer immediate relief, while others take a few weeks to be effective. Read more about eye drops for eye allergies.
When using drops or eye ointment, it is important to use the correct technique. This makes sure you get the right amount of medicine. Read more about how to use eye drops and eye ointment.
Antihistamine tablets or capsules
Antihistamine tablets or capsules are best used to relieve itching and allergy symptoms associated with the nose. While they can be mildly effective in relieving the itching associated with eye allergies, they may cause dry eyes and potentially worsen eye allergy symptoms. Read more about antihistamines.
See your doctor or go to the nearest emergency department immediately if you or someone you care for experiences any of the following symptoms:
- blurred vision
- light sensitivity (photophobia)
- severe pain in your eyes
- severe headache with nausea (feeling sick)
- fever (a high temperature)
- not able to open your eyes
- feeling like there is something in your eye.