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Defeat Eye Allergies One Drop at a Time

closeup of eyes on somebody's face

Allergy Eye Drop Comparison

By Beth Coopman, Pharm.D.

As the final article in our three-part series on seasonal allergies and medicine, we’re examining the final component of allergy relief – eye drops. Our past articles covered allergy medicines and over-the-counter nasal sprays.  These comparisons, tips and tricks should help you stay ahead of irritating and even dangerous allergy symptoms, keeping you as healthy as possible.

Store shelves are stocked with a plenty of eye-drop options. With so many choices on the market, you’re probably wondering how to be certain which one is the best for you? Like allergy pills and nasal spray, the best starting point is always letting your allergy symptoms guide you.

Are Eye Drops or Allergy Pills Better?

Allergy eye drops are absorbed directly into the eyes where they are needed. For that reason, full-body side effects are rare. In contrast, oral allergy medications are absorbed and metabolized to reach our blood stream, which can result in full-body side effects like tiredness, dry mouth, constipation, vomiting and headache.

That said, you’ll typically find three types of eye drops available:

  • Non-medicated eye drops
  • Medicated eye drops/antihistamines
  • Eye decongestants

Non-Medicated Eye Drops

For those with eye redness and dryness, artificial tears and saline eye wash provide a non-medicated option for lubrication and washing the allergen from the eye. All ages can use artificial tears and saline eye wash with few side effects and minimal cost which makes them good choices in pregnancy, during breastfeeding and for children with eye allergies.

In addition to refrigerating lubricating eye drops, placing an ice pack or cold compress on the eyes can also provide relief. Things to avoid include rubbing your eyes, which worsens symptoms and wearing contact lenses, which allergens stick to.

Medicated Eye Drops

If non-medicated eye drops are ineffective, antihistamine eye drops are the next best option for itchy and watery eyes. These eye drops are valued for their ability to rapidly relieve allergy symptoms.

Mast-cell stabilizers, another eye drop drug class, have minimal side effects, can prevent allergies and are safe if used long term. Best of all, the dual action antihistamine and mast-cell stabilizer eye drops, olopatadine (Pataday®) and ketotifen (Alaway®, Zaditor®), work quickly to treat and prevent eye allergies from pet dander, pollen, ragweed and grass. Pataday® is now available over-the-counter in once-daily and twice-daily formulations.

Eye Decongestants

Eye decongestants, like naphazoline, tetrahydrozoline, oxymetazoline and phenylephrine work to reduce eye inflammation and redness. These eye drops should not be used longer than 72 hours because eye redness can worsen from overuse.

NaphconA contains a decongestant and antihistamine to reduce redness, itchy and watery eyes. Lumify® is a new OTC eye drop, which reduces eye redness only.

How to Safely Put Eye Drops In

Whichever eye drop type you decide on, here are some precautions to keep in mind when using eye drops.

  • To avoid contaminating the eye drop bottle and introducing germs to the eye, do not touch the tip of the dropper to anything.
  • Wash hands before and after use.
  • In most instances, contact lenses should be removed before placing drops in the eye. Contacts may be reinserted 10 minutes after the eye drop dose.
  • For best results, tilt your head back slightly and pull the lower lid down with your opposite hand to create a pouch for the drop to fall into. Keep the head tilted back and eyes closed for two to three minutes for the best absorption.
  • Press down on the tear duct with your finger to keep the medication in place longer and to minimize whole-body side effects.

Comparison of Popular Eye Drops

Brand Name

Generic Name

Age Allowed

Onset of Effect

Peak

Duration

Common Side Effects

Cost/Bottle

Pataday®

Once daily

Olopatadine 0.2%

≥ 2 yrs

Rapid

2 hrs

24 hrs

Headache

Eye burning

Eye stinging

$19

Pataday®

Twice daily

Olopatadine 0.1%

≥ 2 yrs

Rapid

2 hrs

12 hours

Headache

Eye burning

Eye stinging

$16

Zaditor®

Twice to three times daily

Ketotifen 0.035%

≥ 3 yrs

Rapid

2-4 hrs

12 hrs

Eye redness

Headache

Runny nose

$15

Alaway®

Twice to three times daily

Ketotifen 0.025%

≥ 3 yrs

Rapid

2-4 hrs

12 hrs

Eye redness

Headache

Runny nose

$11

NaphconA®

Four times daily

Naphazoline 0.025% and Pheniramine 0.3%

≥ 6 yrs

Rapid

Up to 2 hours

6-8 hrs

Eye redness

Eye irritation

Eye pain

$11

Saline Eye Wash

Varies

All

Rapid

Rapid

Varies

Eye discharge

Eye stinging

$4-10

Artificial Tears

Varies

All

Rapid

Rapid

2-4 hrs

Eye discharge

Eye stinging

$4-10

Lumify®

Brimonidine 0.025%

≥ 5 yrs

Rapid

Up to 4 hrs

8 hrs

Itching

Foreign body sensation in eye Tearing

$12

*Reference: Micromedex® and pricing estimates from Walmart.com

** Cost listed is for generic product and cost decreases per dose as package size increases.

Drop Allergy Symptoms with the Correct Eye Drops

Be an informed health care consumer. Know how your prescription choices impact your plan’s costs. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about cost alternatives for your prescriptions or OTC selections. If you have any questions pertaining to this article email the pharmacy team at pharmacists@networkhealth.com.

For more information on how your Network Health plan can help with uncomfortable allergies, contact us today.

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