Redness: Is it Allergies or Infection?

By Eye Institute of Houston
April 15, 2017

eye allergiesThe time has come for flowers to bloom and birds to chirp and, oh yes, for your hay fever to act up. If your eyes get itchy and watery during the springtime, you may assume that it’s nothing more than your allergies at play. Under this assumption, you may prescribe home remedies or over-the-counter medication to ease your symptoms.

There is a problem with self-treatment, even if you believe the source of your discomfort is an allergic reaction. But before you purchase the latest and greatest eye drops, look a little more closely at your symptoms. Allergies can show up in much the same way as an eye infection, but the two require very different treatment.
Some of the common symptoms of ocular allergies include:

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Clear watering
  • Burning

Eye infection may also produce these symptoms, but there’s more . . .

  • Light sensitivity
  • A sandy, gritty feeling
  • Eye pain
  • Thick discharge

A safe rule of thumb to differentiate infection from allergies is to observe anything that does not resemble tears streaming from your eye. Any degree of thickness to those tears indicates likely infection.
Because an eye infection such as conjunctivitis, or pink eye, can be passed on to others, it is important to visit the doctor for appropriate treatment. Prompt medical care will also quickly resolve the uncomfortable burning and sensitivity associated with infection.

Don’t assume that professional care is only needed if you do have an eye infection. In many cases, allergies will respond most quickly to prescription eye drops or other anti-histamine medication.

Minimizing Risk of Infection
Some eye infections require only maintenance until they clear up on their own. However, it’s always nicer to avoid the discomfort that stems from a viral or bacterial infection. The best way to minimize your or your child’s risk of eye infection is to wash your hands frequently. This is especially important for school-aged children and for those times when you are using a public restroom. It can sometimes be difficult to ensure children learn good hand-washing habits. Hand-wipes or anti-bacterial gel works just as well.

Do you need treatment for an uncomfortable eye condition? Call the Eye Institute of Houston at (713) 668-7337.

Eye Care, Eye Conditions

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