Antihistamine Eye Drops

6 sources cited
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What are Antihistamine Eye Drops?

Antihistamine eye drops are a form of liquid medication for eye allergy relief. They are taken topically and applied directly to the affected eye. 

Eye allergies are caused by environmental stimulants, such as:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Pet dander
  • Contact lenses (rare)

In addition to antihistamine eye drops, other types treat eye conditions not caused by common allergies. These include artificial tears, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, and antibacterial eye drops

Some of these eye drops require a prescription. However, most antihistamine eye drops do not, including leading medications such as Pataday, Alaway, and Zaditor.

Antihistamine Eye Drops Uses

Antihistamine eye drops prevent and treat itchy eyes. These itchy eyes are caused by allergies, including seasonal allergies and conjunctivitis

In addition to itchiness, antihistamine eye drops help alleviate the following:

  • Red eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Feeling of something in the eye
  • Watery discharge
  • Dry eyes

In the case of underlying issues like glaucoma, consult your eye doctor before starting any new eye drops.

Who Needs Antihistamine Eye Drops?

This type of eye drop is usually recommended as the first line of treatment for eye allergies, especially if oral antihistamines are not effective. 

Most people with itchy, watery eyes caused by histamine reactions from allergens will benefit from short-term use.

For those with underlying eye issues, seek immediate medical attention. 

How to Use Antihistamine Eye Drops

Here are some guidelines on how to use antihistamine eye drops:

  • If you're using an OTC product, follow the instructions on your bottle. Ask your doctor about dosage and frequency if you're using prescription medication.
  • Wash your hands before applying any eye drops. Don't touch the eye dropper since this can cause contamination.
  • Tilt your head backward and pull down your lower eyelid, then apply the eye drops as directed. Make sure the eye dropper tip doesn't touch your eyes.
  • Gently press down on your inner eye corners and close your eyes. This will prevent the eye drops from washing away.
  • Store your eye drops in a cool place. The temperature should be between 59°F and 86°F (15°C and 30°C).

If you wear contact lenses, ask your doctor if you can wear contacts while using antihistamine eye drops.

Remember to remove your contact lens before applying the drops. After applying the eye drops, wait at least 10 minutes before wearing your contact lens again.

Don't use these products for longer than prescribed or when they aren't needed. Overuse of antihistamine eye drops can lead to more problems. 

Side Effects of Allergy Eye Drops

Side effects of antihistamine eye drops are generally mild.

They can include: 

  • Burning or stinging feeling in the eye
  • Irritation around the eyelid margins
  • Dry eyes
  • Mild headache
  • Nasal congestion
  • Bad taste in the back of the mouth
  • Increased sensitivity to light

Antihistamine Eye Drops (Which Is Best For You?)

There are many types of antihistamine eye drops. Some have the same active ingredients with differing dosages. Others are made of various medicinal components. 

It's not clear which is best for you. People react differently to medications.

Below is more information on several types of over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops to help you make a more informed decision:

Ketotifen Eye Drops

Ketotifen fumarate is a type of antihistamine and mast cell stabilizer. It treats allergic conjunctivitis symptoms by blocking the release of histamines. These are naturally occurring substances that cause allergic reactions.

These drops relieve itchy eyes by acting as a mast cell stabilizer to further prevent allergic reactions.

Many leading eye drop brands contain ketotifen fumarate, though generic options are also available.

Brands that use ketotifen fumarate as the main active ingredient include:

Best Overall: Zaditor Antihistamine Eye Drops

Acuvue Oasys 1-Day with HydraLuxe

Zaditor is a prescription-strength antihistamine eye drop that is available over the counter. It targets itchy eyes at the source with a powerful antihistamine. 

Unlike some other antihistamine eye drops, Zaditor does not contain a vasoconstrictor. This is often used as a redness reliever for clear eyes but is not recommended for regular use. Similar generic options are also available.

Runner Up: Alaway Eye Drops

Acuvue Oasys 1-Day with HydraLuxe

Alaway eye drops are manufactured by Bausch & Lomb. They are clinically tested to relieve itchy eyes for up to 12 hours. They begin to work in less than three minutes.

Longest Lasting Relief: Olopatadine Eye Drops (Pataday)

Acuvue Oasys 1-Day with HydraLuxe

Olopatadine is another type of antihistamine eye drop that is also a mast cell stabilizer. It is used to treat allergic conjunctivitis, much like ketotifen eye drops.

Olopatadine targets highly selective receptors. As a result, it never crosses the blood-brain barrier. It is manufactured by Allergan. Pataday used to be prescription-only but is now available OTC.

6 Cited Research Articles
  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "PubChem Compound Summary for CID 5282408, Ketotifen fumarate." PubChem, 2022.
  2. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. “AAAAI Allergy & Asthma 
  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. “What Are Eye Allergies?”
  4. American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. “Eye Allergy.” 
  5. Singh, K., Axelrod, S., & Bielory, L. "The epidemiology of ocular and nasal allergy in the United States, 1988-1994." The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 2010.
  6. National Eye Institute. “How to Use Eye Drops.”
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