Our pets are our best friends, even when we are allergic to them. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, 7 out of 10 households in the United States have a pet, including people with animal allergies. Pet allergies affect 10 to 20% of the world’s population. That’s a lot of red, itchy eyes!
Pets carry many eye allergens, including dander (dead skin cells), urine, pollen, and saliva. When exposed to these allergens, symptoms can include burning, itchy or watery eyes, red or pink eyes, swollen or puffy eyelids, and even allergic conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the clear tissues that lie over the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid.
Most pet lovers want the best of both worlds: keeping their adored pets while minimizing their allergic symptoms. Fortunately, most eye irritations from pet allergies can be managed with lifestyle changes and medications. Below are some suggestions for alleviating your distress.
- Wash your hands after petting any animal, and keep your hands away from your face and eyes. If you don’t have pets, wash your clothes after visiting with friends who do.
- Cold compresses will relieve symptoms but are a short-term solution for infrequent pet exposure.
- Keep your pet outside as much as possible, and don’t let it sleep in your bedroom. Close the air ducts to your bedroom if you have forced air or central heating/cooling.
- Replace carpeting with hardwood, tile or linoleum, all of which are easier to keep dander-free. If you must have carpet, select one with a low pile and steam clean frequently.
- Consider throw rugs that can be washed in hot water.
- Keep floors clean with a damp mop or rag instead of a broom to trap allergens.
- Consult your eye care professional before taking any medications, including over-the-counter remedies such as artificial tears, decongestant eye drops, or oral antihistamines. These usually provide short-term relief, but prolonged use could cause your symptoms to worsen.
- Consult your eye care professional to discuss prescription medication solutions such as eyedrops (decongestant, antihistamine, mast cell stabilizer, corticosteroid), allergy shots, or non-sedating oral antihistamines.
What about wearing contact lenses? Unfortunately, they can attract and accumulate airborne allergens. Use proper hygiene and ask your eye care professional to recommend the best lens.