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The 5 Best Eye Drops to Help Relieve Allergies

It can happen whether you’re strolling through the botanical gardens or just sitting in your living room with a cat on your lap —your eyes turn red, then they start to burn, itch, and tear up. The next thing you know, you’re rubbing furiously at them with your fists, even though we all know you’re not supposed to touch your face!

“When an allergen like pollen or pet dander gets in your eyes, the mast cells react by releasing histamines and other substances,” says Edith Schussler, MD, a pediatric allergist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, who points out that even when you’re indoors, pollen can fly in through an open window. When the mucus membrane that covers the white of the eye and the inner eyelid becomes inflamed, the itching can drive you absolutely insane.

Luckily, almost all types of allergy eye drops are now available without a prescription, says Dr. Schussler. “There are so many different brand names, and they all work to help with itchy eyes,” she says. “Just make sure you use them according to the package directions.”

Dr. Schussler also advises allergy sufferers to wear sunglasses and a hat with a brim when they’re outside, to keep pollen from falling into their eyes. And, to control pollen allergies from the very start of the season, take oral antihistamines as early as March 1. “You should use eye drops as needed when the symptoms flare up, but if you’re using nasal sprays from the beginning, you’ll actually have fewer eye symptoms as well," she says. "It’s all connected.”

If you wear contact lenses, put in your allergy eye drops first thing in the morning, and then wait 15 minutes before putting in your lenses, says Gwen Hausman, OD, a New York City optometrist.

When your eyeballs start to feel as if they're being scratched with tiny bits of steel wool, here are the best eye drops for allergies to try: