Can I Use Allergy Eye Drops If I Wear Contact Lenses?

Get the facts before your next allergy attack

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If you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, you might be doubly miserable during allergy season if you wear contacts. Not only are allergens such as pollen and ragweed attracted to contact lenses, knowing which products are safe for contacts and your eyes can be confusing.

Eye allergies can cause symptoms such as burning, itchiness, redness, swelling, and tearing.

The good news is that usually, people who wear contacts and suffer from eye allergies can effectively treat the redness, itching, and irritation. 

Eye Allergy Treatment Options

Treatment of eye allergies may include antihistamine pills, nasal sprays, and/or topical allergy eye drops. Most allergy eye drops, including over-the-counter ones such as Zaditor (ketotifen) and prescription forms such as Pataday (olopatadine) and Optivar (azelastine), can be used with soft contact lenses. The prescribing information for all of these eye drops recommends placing the drops into the eyes while not wearing the contact lenses, then waiting at least 10 minutes before inserting the contact lenses. The reason for this is to prevent the anti-bacterial preservative, benzalkonium chloride, from absorbing into the contact lenses.

Of course, it is always important to ensure your eye redness and irritation is truly due to allergies and not a reaction to the contact lenses or an infection.

If you're not sure, speak to your doctor.

Learn more about the use of over-the-counter eye drops for allergies.

Other Methods for Reducing Eye Irritation

In addition, there are several other tactics you can use to reduce your discomfort during allergy season: 

  • Wear glasses. You may prefer wearing contact lenses over glasses, but you will most likely be more comfortable in your glasses during allergy season.
  • Maintain moisture. Be sure to use artificial tears often to help soothe your eyes and rinse allergens out. However, opt for the solution that most closely mirrors your own natural tears over those that claim to reduce redness. Redness-relieving drops simply reduce the appearance of redness while doing nothing to improve your comfort. 
  • Be a clean freak. Being extra vigilant about your cleaning routine during allergy season (using a preservative-free solution) can help you minimize extra irritation and keep allergens out of your lenses. 
  • Don't scratch. Although it can be hard, resist the temptation to rub your eyes as this can add to the irritation. Using a cool compress can help soothe and relieve the itch temporarily. 
  • Shower before bed. Allergens accumulate on body surfaces and clothing throughout the day. Washing them off before bed can minimize your exposure throughout the nighttime and keep them off your bed linens.

 

Sources:

Bielory L. Allergic and Immunologic Disorders of the Eye. Part II: Ocular Allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2000; 106:1019-32.

Ono SJ, Abelson MB. Allergic conjunctivitis: Update on pathophysiology and prospects for future treatment. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005; 115:118-22.

Prescribing Information for Pataday.

Prescribing Information for Optivar. 

Zaditor Patient Information Website

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