Eye drops and eye rinses are a popular way to relieve hayfever. Here’s a run down on what you need to know.

Hayfever Eye Drops

If bathing your eyes with cold water (that has been boiled then cooled) and the application of cold compress packs are not working, medication is a quick and effective option.

However, keep in mind your eye complications may be nothing to do with hayfever, or they could involve something different that is combining with your hayfever.

Any problem with your eyes should be taken very seriously, always consult a doctor without delay when something’s not right with them.

Antihistamine Eye Drops

Antihistamine eye drops are a fast and effective treatment to alleviate the symptoms of allergy eyes (itchy, watery, red eyes). They can work within minutes and are available over the counter at your local pharmacy. Possible side-effects from antihistamine eye drops include eye irritation / burning / stinging, and a brief bitter taste.

Steroid Eye Drops

Also quick to provide relief by mimicking cortisol to fight inflammation. Be wary if any breathing difficulty occurs after administering steroid eye drops as this could indicate an allergic reaction to the drug.

There is also a slight risk of cataract formation, optical nerve damage/glaucoma and even vision loss as a result of increased eye pressure. Be sure to seek medical advice and follow medical advice closely.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory Eye Drops

NSAIDs are mostly used as a follow-up drug after eye surgery due to their pain reduction and anti-inflammatory benefits.

These eye drops block enzymes that produce inflammatory chemicals such as prostaglandin, so they can be used for mild allergic conjunctivitis. In addition to minor side-effects such as burning/stinging, itching and sensitivity to light, a number of more serious adverse reactions are also possible.

Be sure to advise the doctor of your complete medical history, and what substances you are a user of including alcohol, tobacco and antacids.


Is only ONE eye itching badly? This could be periorbital cellulitis, a serious infection that can spread to the eye socket. Periorbital cellulitis can occur in adults and children. Another good reason why medical attention should be sought immediately when a bothersome symptom presents itself.

Mast cell stabiliser drops

These drops are well tested and prove effective for many people, with minimal side-effects, and reports that they allow contact lens wearers to continue using their lenses during treatment.

However the effects of mast stabiliser drops do not last as long as some other drops, so they must be administered 4 or 5 times per day.

Immunomodulating drops

This is very strong medication to be used with caution. Immunomodulating eye drops attach to T-lymphocyte cells, reducing inflammation.

Combination drops

Combined formulations are often unsuitable for young children and some adults – seek medical advice before purchasing or using. A common variant is antihistamine combined with a vasoconstrictor that narrows the blood vessels in the surface of the eye to mitigate the supply of allergenic chemicals there.

What can be done if medication doesn’t work or can’t be used?

Immunotherapy is sometimes the best long-term solution. This involves gradually introducing the body to allergens to increase tolerance and eradicate symptoms, much like the way people are immunised against diseases with vaccines. See Injections and Immunity

Household and lifestyle prevention measures are also a key consideration for people with severe eye-related symptoms, because most eye treatments are not to be used for long periods.

For example, reducing exposure to dust mites can help reduce eye-related allergic rhinitis symptoms.

For more info on this and other tips, see our section on Hayfever Habits and ‘Must Haves’

Eye Rinses

Eye Wash Products

Specially formulated eye wash is available in most countries which can help reduce symptoms and help minimise the need for medicated drops.

Alternative Methods

Some alternative remedies suggest a combination of particular oils diluted with water, though no evidence points to any in particular as fully effective, safe or tested in order for us to recommend anything for self use. Consult your aromatherapist, doctor and pharmacist on what they recommend to use as an eye rinse in response to the allergen/s that are affecting you.

Nasal Rinses

Also known as “sinus flush”, “nasal lavage”, “nasal douche” or simply “nasal irrigation”, the practice of regularly running a salt water rinse through the nasal passages is known to help alleviate hayfever and the common cold, as it cleanses the nose (in addition to providing somewhat of an antibacterial effect) and in doing so can remove particles such as dander, dust, pollen, sawdust etc that is causing inflammation. This treatment can also be used before taking your hayfever nasal spray as it can help clear the nose to allow for greater absorption of medication.

Saline Wash

These can be found at most pharmacies, a bottle (which is sometimes the delivery device) containing saline (salt water solution) and possibly a tube for insertion into the nose.

Neti Pot

The neti pot is a popular nasal rinsing device.

Salt water is poured into one nostril with the head tilted sideways, causing the wash to exit over the divide of the nose and out the other nostril.

Using a nasal rinse effectively will reduce the number of allergenic particles in the nose which can both reduce the need for medication, and improve its effectiveness.