One day, in ancient India, the Buddha was giving a teaching to his followers. On this day however, instead of a verbal teaching, he simply held up a flower. One of his disciples, Mahakasyapa, smiled. Today, in Central Park the cherry blossoms are flowering and the tulips are bursting forth, but not all of us are able to enjoy all the beauty around us since we cannot stop sneezing, tearing and rubbing our eyes. The allergy season is here! There are several types of ocular allergic reactions, but I will talk about the most common one: seasonal allergic conjunctivitis.

Ocular allergies mostly involve the conjunctiva, a thin membrane which acts as a barrier that covers the white surface of the eyeball. Pollen and dust come in contact with the mast cells of the conjunctiva, which are like time-bombs full of itchy substances, called histamines. When released, histamines cause a reaction of inflammation, which in turn causes burning, itching, redness and watery discharge. The more you rub, the more mast-cells are spurred to release their allergenic explosives, causing the eyes to itch even more. Some people with allergicrhinitis, asthma, eczema and hay fever are more likely to develop ocular allergies.

There are several things you can do to control your symptoms. First and most important is to try to avoid eye rubbing. Cold compresses and taking over the counter allergy medicines can relieve the discomfort, but if these home remedies aren’t helping, there are topical drops that a health care provider can prescribe. Eye drops may contain a decongestant, an antihistamine, a mast-cell stabilizer, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), a mild steroid or a combination of these, which can be a stronger treatment for your ocular allergies. Your eye doctor will prescribe the right regimen needed. So… Go ahead and smell the flowers! And smile!

— Contributed by Dr. Elvira Levit, OD