Allergies occur when your immune system cannot process something in your environment or senses it as harmful to your body. When foreign substances or allergens come into contact with your eyes’ mast cells, your eye cells respond by releasing several chemicals, including histamine. The release of histamine and other chemicals causes an allergic reaction and makes your eyes irritated and red.
You can use multiple over-the-counter antihistamine eye drop products to avoid allergic reactions in your eyes. Whether you suffer from redness or itchiness, this article will walk you through the seven best eye drops for your eye allergy needs.
Best Allergy Eye Drops
The table below outlines the eye-drop products discussed in this article and their respective prices:
|Product Name||Price||Why You Should Try It|
|Alaway Antihistamine Eye Drops||$18 for 20mL||Best overall eye drops for allergies or hayfever|
|Pataday Once Daily Relief||$15-22 for 2.5mL||Best once-daily eye drops|
|Visine Allergy Eye Relief||$10-11 for 30mL||Best value for budgeting and redness relieving|
|Zaditor Antihistamine Eye Drops||$19-$23 for 10mL||Best eye drops for itchy eyes|
|Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye Drops||$27 for 42mL||Best for dry and sensitive eyes|
|Naphcon-A Eye Drops||$11 for 15mL||Best multi-symptom eye drops|
|Lastacaft||$17-$21 for 5mL||Best eye drops for contact lenses|
Best Overall: Bausch + Lomb Alaway Antihistamine Eye Drops
Alaway eye drops are considered the best eye drops for allergies. It costs around $18 on Amazon for 20mL (2 packs of 10mL). The active ingredient in this product is ketotifen. This prescription-strength ingredient allows quick relief and long-lasting effects—up to 8-12 hours. Ketotifen is a mast-cell stabilizing agent and antihistamine.
Mast-cell stabilizers prevent histamine production and prevent itching for extended periods of time. Antihistamines treat existing inflammation caused by histamines and quickly relieve itching. The dual action of these eye drops makes them an especially effective product.
To use Alaway, add one drop per affected eye twice daily. Alaway cannot be used with contact lenses.
Best Once-Daily: Pataday Once-Daily Relief Eye Drops
Pataday prescription-strength eye drops are the best product for 24-hour relief. Its active ingredient is olopatadine, which only requires one drop per affected eye daily. Like ketotifen, olopatadine is a class of antihistamines that suppress the release of histamines and other irritating chemicals during an allergic reaction. Studies have shown that people with allergies prefer to use olopatadine over ketotifen in terms of comfort and efficacy.
Best Value: Visine Allergy Eye Relief
Visine Allergy Eye Relief is the best product for redness relief. It is also the best value eye drop, costing only $10-$11 for 30mL (2 packs of 15mL) on Amazon. Its active ingredients are pheniramine and naphazoline hydrochloride. Naphazoline is a decongestant with vasoconstrictors that narrow swollen blood vessels to reduce eye redness. Pheniramine is an antihistamine that reduces the effects of histamine.
Add one to two drops in the affected eyes up to four times daily to effectively use Visine. It cannot be used with contact lenses. There is no indicated amount of time that this product offers relief. It should be noted that redness-relievers like Visine should not be used for more than 72 hours straight.
Best for Itchy Eyes: Zaditor Antihistamine Eye Drops
Zaditor prescription-strength eye drops are the best eye drops for itchy eyes. Like Alaway, its active ingredient is ketotifen, requiring one drop in an affected eye twice daily. Zaditor costs around $19-$23 for 10mL (2 packs for 5mL) on Amazon and lasts up to 12 hours.
If you wear contact lenses, wait around 10 minutes after using Zaditor to reinsert your lenses. The fast-acting product can be used on children ages three and up because it does not contain vasoconstrictors.
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Best for Dry and Sensitive Eyes: Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye Drops
Systane Lubricant eye drops are the best option for dry or sensitive eyes. It costs around $27 for 42mL on Amazon, and its active ingredients are polyethylene glycol and propylene glycol. These ingredients help add moisture to the eyes and nasal passages to treat dryness and irritation caused by allergies, colds, and dry room air.
Systane Lubricant eye drops cannot be used with contact lenses. Because this product is preservative-free and contains no antihistamines, it is ideal for sensitive eyes.
However, because it does not contain antihistamines, Systane eye drops are not clinically effective for treating allergies. It also does not have an indicated amount of time for relief. Regardless, it is fast-acting and can be used as needed to moisturize dry, irritated eyes. You can compare this product to artificial tears.
Best Multi-symptom: Naphcon-A Eye Drops
Add one drop to the affected eye up to four times daily to effectively use this product. There is no indicated amount of time that Naphcon-A offers relief. Similar to Visine, Naphcon-A reduces eye redness and cannot be used long-term. Redness relievers like Naphcon-A should not be used for more than 72 hours.
Best for Contact Lenses: Lastacaft
Lastacaft eye drops are the best prescription-strength eye drops for people who wear contact lenses. It costs around $17-$21 for 5mL on Amazon or Walmart. Lastacaft’s active ingredient is alcaftadine, which requires putting in the drops 10-15 minutes before inserting contact lenses.
Alcaftadine is an antihistamine and mast-cell stabilizer that treats and blocks the production of histamine and other irritating chemicals in your eye. Though it is structurally similar to ketotifen, its alleviating effects last longer. You only need to use this product once daily, lasting around 16 or more hours.
Reasons For Using Eye Drops For Allergies
Over-the-counter eye drops are commonly used for short-term allergy relief. Here are some eye allergy symptoms that the eye drops discussed in this article can treat:
- Clear, watery discharge
Eye drops for allergies can provide quick relief by preventing the release of histamine and other chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. The relief usually lasts for a few hours, so most products must be used multiple times a day. To use these products effectively, you must use eye drops before exposure to an allergen.
Here is a list of allergens that can trigger allergic reactions in your eyes:
- Pollen from grass, trees, or ragweed
- Pet dander
What is the best eye drop brand for me?
If you want to treat your allergies at the source, products containing antihistamines and mast-cell stabilizers are your best option. These include Alaway, Pataday, Zaditor, and Lastacaft.
Artificial tears are a good idea if you struggle with sensitive eyes. Systane lubricant eye drops would likely be your best option.
Using a product with decongestants would be the most effective for people struggling with redness. These include Visine and Naphcon-A.
If you want to limit how many times you have to use the product, Pataday and Lastacaft are good options. Cost is also a factor: budget-friendly Visine allergy eye drops are effective and inexpensive. Ultimately, the best eye drop brand depends on your allergy needs, how often you want to use them, and their cost.
|What I Need||What Can Help||Product(s) I Should Try|
|Fast and long-lasting relief from allergies||Antihistamines and mast-cell stabilizers|
|Lubrication for allergies in dry, sensitive eyes||Artificial tears|
|Reducing redness from allergies||Decongestants|
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Eye Drops for Allergies Frequently Asked Questions: FAQs
This section answers some frequently asked questions about antihistamine eye drops and allergies.
Are there at-home prevention strategies to help manage my allergies?
Prevention strategies for allergies differ slightly based on the type of allergen that triggers your allergies. It is best to use all these techniques to lower your risk of reaction.
|Type of Allergy||Prevention Technique|
|Pollen||Avoid going outside on days with high pollen counts. Use central air conditioning with proper filtration to reduce indoor allergens. Keep windows closed.|
|Mold||Avoid going outside when mold spore counts are high. Keep humidity levels in your home around 30-50%. Use dehumidifiers to reduce the risk of mold growth. Fix plumbing leaks as soon as possible.|
|Dust||Protect yourself from dust mites. Use allergen-reducing bedsheets and pillow covers. Wash your bedding with hot water at least once a week.|
|Pet dander||Keep animals outside your bedroom. Keep them off fabric furniture. Wash your hands and clothes after coming into contact with animals.|
|General Allergies||Shower daily before bed. Wash your bedding with hot water at least once a week. Clean floors using a damp mop or rag to trap allergens better. Avoid rubbing your eyes.|
Are there long-term effects of using eye drops regularly?
It is important to remember that antihistamine eye drops are not meant for regular use. Using them too often can cause multiple health issues, including worsening pre-existing dry eye, increasing redness, and washing away natural tears.
Overusing eye drops can also make it difficult to discern if something is seriously wrong with your eyes. By masking potentially dangerous symptoms, underlying eye conditions can further damage your eyes or vision.
Are there stronger alternatives to over-the-counter eye drops for allergy relief?
If over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops are not providing enough comfort, there are other options you can explore.
- NSAID eye drops: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are eye drops designed to relieve itching. These drops may cause stinging or burning when applied but can be used four times daily.
- Corticosteroid eye drops: These eye drops help treat chronic and severe allergy symptoms, like itching, redness, and swelling. Long-term treatment with steroids should be done only under your doctor's or an ophthalmologist's supervision. If you use corticosteroid eye drops continuously for over two weeks, you risk an increased chance of infection, glaucoma, and cataracts.
- Nonsedating oral antihistamines: Prescription antihistamines can effectively treat itchy eyes. They do not have the same sedating side effects as over-the-counter antihistamines.
- Allergy shots (immunotherapy): Allergy shots increase your tolerance to allergens. Small amounts of allergens are injected into your system, slowly increasing in dosage over time. Immunotherapy can take several months to become effective, and you may still have to use over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms.
Are lubricant eye drops the same as allergy relief eye drops?
No. Lubricant eye drops, like Systane Lubricant eye drops, are comparable to artificial tears. They do not contain antihistamines, preservatives, or decongestants. Unlike artificial tears, which can be used as often as needed, over-the-counter allergy eye drops must be used more sparingly. Lubricant eye drops can treat dry eyes, not eye allergies. However, eye allergies often cause dryness, which lubricant eye drops can alleviate.
Eye allergies can be an unpleasant and frustrating experience. Luckily, many antihistamine eye drops are available over the counter, whether you suffer from dry, itchy, or sensitive eyes. The seven best eye drops for allergies are:
- Bausch + Lomb Alaway Antihistamine Eye Drops
- Pataday Once Daily Relief
- Visine Allergy Eye Relief
- Zaditor Antihistamine Eye Drops
- Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye drops
- Naphcon-A Eye Drops
Jasiah Hasan is from Portland, Oregon. She is completing her Master's in Public Health in global health policy at George Washington University. Outside of health equity and women's health, Jasiah is passionate about writing and dreams of one-day publishing poetry books.