Seeing Red

Your eyes are crying for help.

Joan Westlake

HealthKey.com contributor

August 5, 2009


Too much sun. Too much fun. Your end-of-summer frolicking or glued-to-the-computer habit has your eyes crying for mercy.

Natural Solutions

* Splash clean, cold water in your eyes then switch to warm water. Keep alternating between warm and cold water for a few more times.

* Wearing contacts? Give your eyes a rest for a day. Even the best contact lenses, which allow the eyes to get oxygen, are not the same as letting your eyes breathe freely.

* Freeze some damp tea bags and use them as eye pads. Relax for about 15 minutes with the bags over your eyes. Try chilled cucumber slices. Cotton pads soaked in soothing rose water and put in the freezer also work. In a pinch, ice wrapped in tissue and rolled over the eyes helps quell red and puffy orbs.

* Has partying left your peepers trashed? Consuming a few liters of water will help wash away the red.

Drop Therapy

No time to be freezing tea bags? Or maybe you've just irritated your baby blues to the limit. Reach for the eye drops. Here's a rundown by the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology of what's available.

* Tear substitutes temporarily wash allergens away and moisten the eyes. These drops can be refrigerated to provide additional soothing. Use as often as necessary.

* Decongestant over-the-counter eye drops reduce the redness of eye allergies. Add an antihistamine to provide additional relief. Don't use for more than two to three days because they can increase swelling and redness in what is called a "rebound effect."

* Prescription eye drops are usually stronger than OTC and work in various ways. Although prescribed antihistamine eye drops provide quick relief, the effect may last only a few hours. Some of these drops need to be used four times a day.

* Mast cell stabilizers are eye drops that prevent the release of histamine and must be used before exposure to an allergen. Some of the newest eye drops have both an antihistamine and a mast cell stabilizing action. Use twice a day for quick and long-lasting relief of itching, redness, tearing and burning.

* Nonsteroidal (NSAIDS) anti-inflammatory eye drops also relieve itching but may sting or burn. Corticosteroids eye drops treat chronic allergy symptoms but continued use increases the risk of infection, glaucoma and cataracts. Long term treatment with steroids (more than two weeks) should be done only with the supervision of an ophthalmologist.