Arghh!! Hayfever and contact lens woes

The sun is high in the sky and the flowers are in bloom. It’s the first few days of spring — one of the best times of the year.

So, you jump out of bed, and without thinking, draw the curtains, open the windows wide, and take one big, long, deep breath in.

Instead of a nice pleasant aaahhhh at the lovely fresh spring air, what comes out is more like an arghhhh!! as you run sneezing and tearing to the bathroom to dig out your antihistamines.

This is not how you want to spend another spring. But when you have hayfever, you get used to it. One thing you could never get used to though,  with eyes red and itchy, is to then place a small plastic disk on the surface of your eye that acts like a landing pad for pollen and all the other friendly neighbourhood airborne allergens to come and say hello.

Hayfever and contact lenses don’t mix. Ideally, you’d avoid them both altogether. But when you’re naturally blessed with allergies, are fed up of glasses, and haven’t yet decided to have Laser Eye Surgery, there are certain steps you can take to help stop them from being such a troublesome combination.

Before we get into that, though, if you suffer from hayfever, you’ve probably wondered — or shouted, if you’re like me — what the heck even is the pollen that causes you so much trouble anyway?

The juicy side of hayfever

The ingenious method of plant fertilisation via pollen is impressive, if not a little annoying for hayfever sufferers. Pollen attaches to everything and anything possible — bees, flies, clothes, eyes — in order to reach its intended destination.

Hayfever, simply put, is an allergic reaction to pollen grains. Symptoms typically come about when such grains come into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes, and throat. Resulting in everything from itchy, red and watery eyes to sneezing, coughing, headaches, and tiredness.

As different plants have evolved different types of grains to try and more safely and effectively carry their DNA, you can find you may be severely allergic to one type of pollen and don’t even flinch at another. This also means your allergies can flare up according to the time of the year and the environment you’re in.

The three main types of pollen that are linked with hayfever are tree pollen, grass pollen, and weed pollen. In general, in the UK, tree pollen is most common from late March to mid-May, grass pollen from mid-June to July, and weed pollen late June to September.

This means that the pollen count is at its highest and hayfever at its worst between late March and September. But the severity and timing of your symptoms also depend on the climate (they’ll be particularly bad if it’s warm, humid, and windy out) and your health — asthma sufferers can also experience shortness of breath and tightness in the chest.

What can you do about it?

In line with standard advice for contact lens use, the number one rule is to keep them as clean as possible. As they sit directly on the surface of your eye, contact lenses put wearers at high risk of infection. And, when you have hayfever, those chances can rise even further due to more particles entering the eye, increased contact between your eyes and hands, and a compromised immune system.

Keeping cleaning, then, essentially means taking measures to minimise the spread of pollen — things like avoiding rubbing or touching your eyes, making sure to shower and change your clothes after being outside, and vacuuming and dusting regularly with a damp cloth.

Of course, the best advice is to stay indoors when pollen counts are high. But when you do venture out, you can help stop pollen from irritating your eyes by wearing wraparound sunglasses, using a pollen filter for the air vents in your car, and using lubricating eye drops to keep your eyes moist and filtering well. The Met Office has a great pollen forecast tool which you can use daily to check the pollen count in your area.

Don’t let hayfever and cmontact lenses stop you enjoying beautiful spring mornings. Sure, you ay not be able to get rid of your allergies, but you can get rid of those pesky plastic lenses.