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Itchy Eyes in the Summer: What’s the Reason and What to Do

July 9, 2022

It’s summertime and you’ve got time to get out and spend it with friends and family. So, what’s with these itchy eyes? Who wants to walk around with red itchy eyes during summer? Here, we’ll talk about some possible causes for this and – best of all – some remedies and procedures

What Causes Itchy Eyes in the Summer? 

There are many things that can cause the eyes to itch. Our exposures are different in the summer than they are the rest of the year. From sweat to air conditioning, to allergens, the eyes have no shortage of irritants in the summertime.

Sweat

The combination of hot weather and being more active can bring about buckets of sweat. The acidity and salt content of sweat can make it rather irritating to the eyes. The more dehydrated you are, the higher the salt content of your sweat, and the more it will burn when it gets into the eyes. If you’ve got sunscreen, makeup, or lotion on, this could be pouring into the eyes along with that sweat, adding insult to injury.

Swimming 

itchy eyes during summer

Swimming in a chlorinated pool without goggles can aggravate the ocular tissues. Sweat and urine in pools combine with chlorine to form chloramine, which is particularly toxic to the eyes. Chloramine is a derivative of ammonia and has a distinctive smell. In fact, it’s the smell that most people associate with a chlorinated pool.

In natural bodies of water like lakes, rivers, and oceans, silt, sediment, or other contaminants can be a source of irritation to the eyes. Remember, regardless of where you’re swimming, you should always take your contact lenses out before jumping in.

Air Conditioning 

If your eyes are feeling dry, sandy, and gritty, they’re probably dry. Air conditioning zaps all the moisture out of the air, which can cause the eyes to dry out. If the air is being blown directly towards your eyes, this can become particularly problematic. Even without the air aimed right at your eyes, just being in an air-conditioned environment can dry the eyes out. Often when the eyes are dry and burning, you’ll be tempted to rub them!      

Dehydration

Hydration benefits every organ system in the body, including the eyes. After all, the body is made mostly of water! Health experts commonly recommend drinking eight 8 oz glasses of water daily. This can differ depending on age, sex, and whether one is pregnant or breastfeeding. Climate and activity levels can also affect water intake recommendations. Insufficient hydration can be drying to the eyes, disrupting tear chemistry. The combination of dehydration with exposure to air conditioning can be a particularly challenging situation. 

Allergy 

summer allergies itchy eyes

Allergies are the most common cause of itchy eyes in the summer. If you’ve got itchy eyes and a runny nose in summer, there’s a good chance you’ve got allergies. Some people just have dry itchy eyes in summer, without experiencing additional symptoms elsewhere in the body. Allergen exposure tends to peak in the summer, with flowers blooming and pollen counts skyrocketing. Exposure to allergens prompts the release of histamine, which leads to a cascade of allergic symptoms. With summer allergies, itchy eyes can be a real nuisance.  

How To Deal with Itchy Eyes During the Summer

If you’re chasing the wrong trigger for your itchy watery eyes in summer, you’ll likely be frustrated with the lack of results. After you’ve identified what the problem is, try some of these solutions to relieve them.

Don’t Itch Eyes

If you’re like everyone else, the first thing you want to do when your eyes start to itch is to rub them! As tempting as it might be, don’t do it! If you have allergies, rubbing the eyes releases more histamine, making itching even worse! You could also introduce more allergens into your eyes if your hands aren’t clean. Worse yet, you could injure your sensitive ocular tissues, or introduce bacteria that could lead to an infection.

Wash Eyes with Water

If you get something in your eyes, like sweat or pool water, you would want to flush them with water to rinse out the irritants. 

Washing the area around the eyes can also be helpful in ridding the eyelids of microbes and pollen, which can irritate as well. You can use a mild unscented soap, or better yet, a cleanser specifically designed for the lids and lashes.

Use Eye Drops

Artificial tears can be beneficial in soothing and moisturizing the eyes, they can help with dryness induced by dehydration and air conditioning. They’ll also help to soothe the eyes from sweat or pool water exposure. Artificial tears can be beneficial when dealing with allergies as well. Pro tip: put the bottle in the fridge for an extra cooling and calming effect when you put them in.

In addition to artificial tears, antihistamine eye drops can be helpful in the case of allergies. These medications block the release of histamine, offering relief from itching caused by allergies.

Reduce Usage of Computer and Mobile Phone

Computer and mobile phone use can contribute to dryness as well. When we’re focused on digital screens, our blink rate slows down, with less blinking, the tears are not replenished regularly and the eyes dry out. Reduce your device use to minimize this drying effect.

Protect Your Eyes with Sunglasses

It is important to wear sunglasses, regardless of how sunny or cloudy it is outside. Not only do they protect the eyes from UV exposure, but they also act as a shield against wind, dust, dirt, and even allergens. 

Visit Your Eye Doctor 

If you experience discharge, vision changes, or other persistent symptoms, you’ll want to see your eye doctor right away. 

Otherwise, try the remedies above and see if they help you. Keep in mind that it’s always best to check in with your eye doctor for an evaluation, they will be able to confirm there is no cause for concern, such as an eye infection. They would also be able to prescribe medication for allergies if necessary. 

Conclusion 

Although itchy eyes are common in the summer, the suffering associated with them is not inevitable. Once you’ve identified the root cause, several lifestyle measures can help to minimize your discomfort. In the meantime, no rubbing! Contact Kraff Eye Institute for additional information!

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Dr. Colman R. Kraff

Committed to advancing new technologies in the field of ophthalmology, Dr. Colman Kraff helped to pioneer laser vision correction. In February of 1991, as part of a five-site, U.S., FDA clinical trial team, Dr. Kraff successfully performed the first excimer laser procedures in the Chicagoland area using the VISX Excimer Laser.

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