Updated on 

April 21, 2022

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Antihistamine Eye Drops

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. 

What are Antihistamine Eye Drops used for?

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

In addition to itchiness, antihistamine eye drops help alleviate red eyes, swollen eyelids, and a feeling of something in the eye.

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. 

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. It treats allergic conjunctivitis symptoms by blocking the release of histamines. These are naturally occurring substances that cause allergic reactions.

These drops provide eye itch relief by acting as a mast cell stabilizer to further prevent allergic reactions.

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

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

Best Overall: Zaditor Antihistamine Eye Drops

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

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: Epinastine Eye Drops (Pataday)

Epinastine 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.

Epinastine 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.

4 Cited Research Articles
  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information . PubChem Compound Summary for CID 5282408, Ketotifen fumarate. Retrieved November 29, 2020 from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Ketotifen-fumarate.
  2. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology . AAAAI Allergy & Asthma Medication Guide. AAAAI. https://www.aaaai.org/Conditions-Treatments/drug-guide/eye-medications
  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology . Eye Allergy Diagnosis and Treatment. AAO. September. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/allergies
  4. American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Eye Allergy. ACAAI. https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/eye-allergy/
Melody Huang is an optometrist and freelance health writer. Through her writing, Dr. Huang enjoys educating patients on how to lead healthier and happier lives. She also has an interest in Eastern medicine practices and learning about integrative medicine. When she’s not working, Dr. Huang loves reviewing new skin care products, trying interesting food recipes, or hanging with her adopted cats.
Jordan is a policy specialist with graduate degrees in sustainable resource management and environmental science. He has worked for think tanks, NGOs, and the UN and written for publications such as Maclean's, QB Labs, and Matmatch Materials Science. Jordan hails from Canada but has spent the majority of his adult life in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Author: Jordan Flagel  | UPDATED April 21, 2022
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Medical reviewer: Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.

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