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Allergic Conjunctivitis

Whilst most people consider conjunctivitis to be highly contagious, that […]

By Published On: 9 January 20122.8 min read

Whilst most people consider conjunctivitis to be highly contagious, that is not always the case. Certainly bacterial and viral infections fall into that category, and friends, family and work colleagues are wise to keep their distance.

But what if the conjunctivitis is caused by an allergic reaction to something? Well then there is no need for concern about “catching it”!

Allergic conjunctivitis comes from the REACTION side of the conjunctivitis family tree, along with giant papillary conjunctivitis. The other INFECTION side of the family tree has chlamydial as well as the bacterial and viral conjunctivitis, all three of them contagious.


Allergic conjunctivitis itself can be broken down into two types according to cause:

* Seasonal – from grass cuttings, pollens, in fact all the things that initiate hay fever.

* All year – from a variety of chemicals and foods, some brands of fabric softener, fur and feathers (and animals with fur and feathers), blow heaters used in winter and increasingly reverse cycle air conditioners used on the heat cycle, which swirl up dust and distribute mould that can form in poorly ventilated homes.

The split between seasonal and all year types of allergic conjunctivitis is even at around fifty to fifty.


Itching is the giveaway sign with allergic reaction conjunctivitis (a better overall name to use), especially if the itchy eyes don’t appear to have any accompanying real visible signs – a person can feel a lot worse than they look. If rubbing itchy eyes makes the situation worse than better, then an allergy is the probable cause.

It’s not unusual for sufferers of hay fever and asthma to exhibit a conjunctivitis that is allergy related, and another clue in determining it is the usually quick response to exposure to the source of the allergy.

Other symptoms are the usual conjunctivitis ones – a little redness, sometimes called “pink eye”, and swelling eyelids that can become quite puffy to the extent of closing up the eyes.


Remove the source of the allergy!

Simple to say of course, but not always easy or practical, and sometimes not possible if the source of the allergic reaction is unknown. An allergic reaction to cats and cat fur can be found by say coming into contact unknowingly with someone at work who keeps one or more cats.

Antihistamines can be used of course to alleviate symptoms if nothing else, but some ice cubes wrapped in a cloth (its hoped not washed with a fabric softener just in case) and held on the closed eyes for five minutes or so at a time, repeating until symptoms subside, definitely will help.

The antihistamines can be in the form of eye drops for direct action against the allergic reaction.

If a chronic case of allergic reaction conjunctivitis exists as in the case from a pet at home or in a particular work environment, then over the counter (OTC) remedies and medications can be tried, and failing this an optometrical examination and prescription.

Steroid eye drops are particularly effective against allergic conjunctivitis but continual use is not advised as long-term side effects can significantly increase the pressure in the eyes leading to an eye disease called glaucoma. When monitored by a therapeutically qualified optometrist steroid eye drops often are the difference between completely comfortable eyes and irritating symptoms waxing and waning.


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