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Best Antihistamine Eye Drops for Allergies

Views: 24422
Reviewed by Nymark M, PhD on January 28, 2016

Antihistamine drops have been formulated specifically for people who experience itchy, irritated eyes as a result of allergies. These drops work by lowering the levels of histamines that are found in the tissues of the eye. When people have an allergy, they usually notice redness, itchiness, puffy, swollen, eyelids, and wateriness. While serious allergies will have to be treated with prescription medication, over the counter antihistamine eye drops can usually provide relief.

It is important to understand that antihistamines can also be found in decongestant eye drops, which usually address the redness of the eyes. These drops are usually labeled as being for allergic reactions that include red eyes. While these can be effective, they are not recommended for long term use. Hence, if you do suffer from allergies that affect your eyes, it is better to stick to specific antihistamine drops, unless advised otherwise by your medical professional.

Lastly, if you use over the counter antihistamine drops, but you do not notice any improvement, you should seek medical attention. They will be able to determine whether you are having an allergic reaction, or whether a different issue is at play. If the reaction is allergic, they could prescribe stronger antihistamine drops, or they can provide medication.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Most people who suffer from allergies in their eyes simply experience redness, irritation, and some swelling. Some people, however, develop allergic conjunctivitis. This looks exactly like viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye”, but it is not contagious. Most people with allergic conjunctivitis notice that the condition is present in both eyes from the onset, and they will experience swollen, blood shot eyes and perhaps yellow discharge when waking up on the morning. Antihistamine eye drops are beneficial for allergic conjunctivitis. However, it is usually recommended to also take oral antihistamines, which include Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec. Again, if no improvement is noticed, you should seek medical attention.

OTC Drops to Prescription Eye Drops

In most cases, people only need over the counter eye drops. These are convenient and, generally, a lot more affordable. However, with persistent or worsening symptoms, stronger medication may be required. A lot of people who suffer from allergies in their eyes also develop infections, due to involuntary rubbing, which means they spread bacteria. Some of these infections can be sight-threatening. In these cases, prescription drops will be required.

Alcon ZADITOR Twin Pack Eye Drops

  • Fast relief of itchy eyes due to allergies
  • Apply a single drop and no more itchy eyes
  • Prevents itching from returning for up to 12 hours
  • Stops release of chemicals that lead to watering and itchy eyes
  • Save 5%, FREE Prime SHIPPING — $21.27
  • Works GREAT for itchy eyes due to grass, pollen, pet dander and ragweed

ZADITOR Eye Drops are the very first over-the-counter eye drops that provide temporary relief of itchy eyes for up to 12 hours – with just a single drop. Our eye drops feature a unique, triple action formula that attacks your itchy eyes at the source.

First, ZADITOR Eye Drops are packed with a powerful antihistamine to stop itchy eyes dead in their tracks. Second, they stabilize to prevent itchy eyes from returning for up to 12 hours. Third, they limit annoying allergic reactions by limiting the release of chemical mediators called eosinophils that lead to inflammation.

ZADITOR provides fast, temporary relief from the agony of itchy eyes due to allergens such as pollen, ragweed, grass, pet hair and animal hair. ZADITOR is different than most over the counter eye drops because it only contains an antihistamine to relieve your itchy eyes. It does not include a vasoconstrictor, which is a substance that reduces redness only.

A Focus on Preservatives

If you head to a drug store for over the counter eye drops, you will notice that there are many drops to choose from. Within the different categories of eye drops (antihistamine, rewetting, lubricating, decongestant, etc…), there are two main differences, and this has to do as to whether they contain preservatives or not. Those with preservatives tend to be a lot more affordable, and they also stop bacteria from growing on the bottle. However, preservatives can be very harsh, leading to irritation after prolonged use. It is also quite common for people to be allergic to the preservatives.

Preservative free eye drops tend to be accepted as being the better option. Usually, they come in single unit doses. This is because they should be discarded within 24 hours of opening them. It is also for this reason that they are more expensive.

Types of Eye Drops for Allergies

Most people who feel they need eye drops will spend a considerable amount of time testing the various drops that are available to them. Unfortunately, the same is true for antihistamine drops. This is why, until you find a brand and product that works for you, you may want to consider placing cold or warm compresses on your eyes, and using artificial tears. Also, avoiding situations that trigger your allergies is very important.

The type of eye drop that is most suitable to you will also vary depending firstly on what is causing your allergy. Secondly, you will need to find a drop that actually addresses the symptoms you are experiencing. Finally, the level at which you experience these symptoms, and how much this affects your daily life, are important.

What you will generally find when you start using antihistamine drops is that they don’t address all the symptoms. Some, for instance, may stop the itching of your eyes, but will still leave them looking bloodshot. Others do the opposite. Some drops provide fast acting, but short relief, whereas others provide long term relief but take some time to start working.

Best Antihistamine Eye Drops

Antihistamine eye drops tend to address watery, itchy eyes. They stop the histamine chemical from building up in your eyes. Histamines are created by the immune system whenever an allergy trigger is encountered. These types of eye drops are usually recommended to be the first type of treatment you try if your allergy is reflected in your eyes. They usually provide very fast acting relief, but you will need to reapply the drops after just a few hours. This is further reason as to why you should choose preservative free drops, as you are likely to have to use them often, which could irritate the eye.

The table below highlights the best antihistamine eye drops out there today.

Brand Name Prescription (Rx)/Over the Counter (OTC) Active Ingredient Dosage Additional Information
Emadine Rx Emedastine Difumarate One drop in each affected eye, four times per day
Optivar Rx Azelastine hydrochloride, zelastine One drop in affected each eye, twice per day Astelin nasal spray is the same medication.
Elestat Rx Epinastine One drop in each affected eye, twice per day This is an antihistamine and mass cell stabilizer
Zaditor Alaway Rx Ketotifen One drop every eight to 12 hours This is an antihistamine and mass cell stabilizer.
Zyrtec OTC Ketotifen One drop every eight to 12 hours This is an antihistamine and mass cell stabilizer. It is the OTC form of Zaditor Alaway.
Naphcon A OTC Naphazoline, pheniramine One to two drops in each affected eye up to four times per day. This is an antihistamine and decongestant.
Opcon-A OTC Naphazoline, pheniramine One to two drops in each affected eye up to four times per day. This is an antihistamine and decongestant.
Visine-A OTC Naphazoline, pheniramine One to two drops in each affected eye up to four times per day. This is an antihistamine and decongestant.
Store brands OTC Naphazoline, pheniramine One to two drops in each affected eye up to four times per day. This is an antihistamine and decongestant. Most stores have their own brands of these products, and they are the most common type of OTC anti-histamine eye drops.
Patanol 0.1% Rx Olopatadine One drop per affected eye twice per day, leaving at least six to eight hours between applications. This is an antihistamine and mass cell stabilizer.
Pataday 0.2% Rx Olopatadine One drop in each affected eye once per day. This is an antihistamine and mass cell stabilizer.
Pazeo Rx Olapatadine HCL 0.7% One drop in each affected eye once per day. This solution is suitable specifically for those who suffer from allergic conjunctivitis. It can be used by patients aged two and over.
Wallgreens OTC Naphazoline HCI, pheniramine maleate One to two drops in each affected eye up to four times per day. This is an antihistamine and redness reliever.
Similasan OTC 100% natural Two to three drops per eye. Apply as often as needed. This is a homeopathic method that addresses the itching, burning, watering, and redness associated with allergies.
Zaditor OTC Ketotifen fumarate One drop in each affected eye, twice daily with intervals of between eight and 12 hours. This product is prescription strength. It is very fast acting and lasts up to 12 hours.
Bausch & Lomb Alaway OTC Ketotfen fumarate One drop in each affected eye, twice daily with intervals of between eight and 12 hours between each application. This is a prescription strength eye drop that works in minutes and can last up to 12 hours.

With all antihistamine eye drops, whether prescription or over the counter remedies, it is important to follow the instructions properly. This is particularly true in terms of how many drops you can apply in each eye, and how often you can repeat treatment. Few drops allow frequent application, as they could seriously irritate the eye, as well as affect the various sinuses and cavities in the facial area, including the mouth, throat, and nose.

Common Side Effects

All medication, whether over the counter or prescription, have the potential to cause side effects. While most of these side effects are only uncomfortable and not threatening, it is important to listen to your body properly. Additionally, if you notice any other side effects than the ones listed below, you must seek medical attention straight away:

  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Irritation

Allergies can be very debilitating, although generally not life or sight-threatening. However, it is always a bad idea to diagnose yourself as having allergies, as something else may be at play as well. Hence, do seek medical attention and have your eyes looked over. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your eyes, after all.

Resources and References:

AAAAI Allergy & Asthma Medication Guide – Guidelines on drugs for allergy and asthma. (American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology)