Wearing contact lenses with hayfever

How to tackle the effects of hay fever when using contact lenses

Hay fever is a nuisance for an estimated 10 million people throughout England alone, so there’s a fair chance you’ll be familiar with the discomfort that can be caused when there's a lot of pollen around. People typically associate hay fever with frequent sneezing and a runny or blocked-up nose, but the effect that hay fever has on the eyes is often overlooked.

In this article, we’re going to look at how hay fever can affect your eyes and possible complications with regards to hay fever and contact lens use. We'll also look at treatment for eyes affected by hay fever.

How does hay fever affect your eyes?

Hay fever is the name given to the allergic reaction many people experience when pollen comes into contact with certain cells that line a person’s eyes, nose, mouth and throat. It can cause their immune system to believe it is under threat from a virus. In turn, the immune system can release chemicals, known as histamines, to prevent the spread of the perceived infection, which themselves can cause symptoms of hay fever.

Your eyes can suffer from a number of symptoms due to the effect of pollen. Primarily, the eyes can feel itchy and irritated, whilst they may also go red and water frequently. These hay fever symptoms are caused by allergic conjunctivitis when exposure to pollen leads to an inflammation of the conjunctiva - the layer of cells covering the front of the eye.

Should you persist with your lenses?

If you find that your eyes are suffering from the effects of hay fever, it's a good idea to remove your contact lenses, if you wear them. The surface of a contact lens is known to attract and accumulate airborne allergens, such as pollen, so persisting with your lenses may aggravate your symptoms further. Here are a couple of options to consider:

  • Remove contact lenses, until symptoms and signs resolve. You could consider only wearing glasses during allergy season. This is typically between March and September. Glasses tend not to attract allergens and lenses offer some protection against pollen and other debris.
  • Alternatively, you could consider using disposable daily contact lenses. Changing your contacts on a daily basis may reduce the chances of allergens and other debris building up on the lens.

Can hay fever eyes be treated?

Hay fever is a common condition, and one of the many causes of eye discomfort, and there are products available to help relieve the symptoms of hay fever. These include:

  • Various forms of eye drops that are available over the counter. There are eye drops specifically for allergy relief, to help treat redness, watering and itching.
  • Antihistamines can fight the problem at the source by blocking the attachment of histamine to the cells in the body that produce the allergic response. Antihistamines can come in oral form and are also available as eye drops.
  • If you are suffering from hay fever and you find that over-the-counter solutions are not sufficiently effective, you are advised to visit your GP.

When can you wear lenses again?

Ideally, you should wait until your symptoms have subsided before reverting back to contact lenses full-time.

It’s worth noting that the pollen count is usually lower during the evenings, so you may choose to wear contacts only at this time, as the risk of pollen is likely to be less of a threat. It’s also important to take note that, if you are using anti-allergy eye drops, check the patient information leaflet for the correct way to use them. You may need to wait at least half an hour after application before inserting your contact lenses.

Pollen is just one of the many causes of eye discomfort that you can be exposed to. That's why the Optrex range of treatments offers a variety of solutions to help you. Find out more about the causes of eye discomfort and to see which Optrex solutions can help your symptoms.