Updated on  February 5, 2024
8 min read

Best Eye Drops for Allergies

6 sources cited
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If you’re among the millions of eye allergy sufferers in the U.S., you already understand how allergy season can ruin even the most beautiful day.4 While many people use nasal steroid sprays to treat head congestion, these sprays do nothing to relieve eye discomfort.

Over-the-counter (OTC) allergy eye drops relieve allergic conjunctivitis (pink eye) and seasonal allergies daily. Common symptoms of eye allergies include:

  • Eye redness
  • Eye irritation
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Burning sensation in the eyes
  • Feeling like something is in your eyes (foreign body sensation)

To help you find the best eye drops for allergies, we researched and reviewed leading brands of OTC allergy eye drops (antihistamine eye drops). Read our top recommendations to help you decide when buying antihistamine eye drops.

Everything We Recommend

Best Overall: Zaditor Antihistamine Eye Drops

Best for Itchy Eyes: Bausch + Lomb Alaway Antihistamine Eye Drops

Best for Long-Lasting Relief: Pataday Once Daily Relief

Best for Contact Lens Wearers: Refresh Optive Lubricant Eye Drops

Best Eye Drops for Allergies

There are many types of antihistamine eye drops available over the counter. Some eye drop brands have the same active ingredients but in different amounts.

Here are the best eye drops for relieving allergy symptoms:

Best Overall: Zaditor Antihistamine Eye Drops

Zaditor Antihistamine Eye Drops

Zaditor is a prescription-strength antihistamine eye drop that’s available over the counter. It targets itchy eyes at the source with ketotifen, a powerful antihistamine and mast cell stabilizer.

One of the reasons we recommend Zaditor over other antihistamine eye drops is that it does not contain a vasoconstrictor. This ingredient provides redness relief by shrinking the eyes’ blood vessels.

Healthcare professionals advise against using products with this ingredient as a regular redness reliever. Vasoconstrictors can cause redness to worsen after the medication wears off, known as rebound redness.

Best for Itchy Eyes: Alaway Eye Drops

Allergy Eye Itch Relief Eye Drops

Bausch & Lomb Alaway eye drops also contain ketotifen as an active ingredient. These clinically tested eye drops relieve itchy eyes for up to 12 hours, working in less than 3 minutes.

In addition to relieving itching, these eye drops treat watery eyes and eye inflammation without causing dry eyes. 

Best for Longest Lasting Relief: Olopatadine Eye Drops (Pataday)

Pataday Once Daily Relief

Pataday Once Daily Relief is the only allergy eye drop brand on the market that provides 24-hour itch relief with only one drop. Pataday Once Daily Relief used to be prescription-only but is now available OTC.

It contains olopatadine, another type of antihistamine eye drop that’s also a mast cell stabilizer. This once-daily drop treats symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, similar to ketotifen eye drops.

Best for Contact Lens Wearers: Refresh Optive Lubricant Eye Drops

Refresh optive drops

Brands don’t develop all eye drops for contact-wearers. That’s why we recommend these lubricating drops formulated for contact lens wearers.

If you wear contact lenses, avoiding eye drops containing preservatives is essential. Refresh Optive eye drops are preservative-free and safe to use with contact lenses.

Carboxymethylcellulose and glycerin are the active ingredients in these allergy drops. These ingredients hydrate and soothe itchy, irritated eyes.

What are Antihistamine Eye Drops?

Antihistamine eye drops treat eye allergies. They don’t treat conditions unrelated to common allergies.

Other types of eye drops include:

All the antihistamine eye drops on our list are available without a prescription. However, consult your eye doctor for individualized advice about these eye drops, especially if you have known eye conditions or sensitivity.

What Do Antihistamine Eye Drops Do?

Antihistamine eye drops work by relieving itching and irritation in your eyes. Histamines cause this itchiness and are part of your body’s allergic response.

You can use antihistamine eye drops to treat allergy symptoms that involve your eyes. These include symptoms caused by seasonal allergies and allergic conjunctivitis (pink eye). 

What Are Ketotifen Eye Drops?

You may notice that many leading eye drop brands contain ketotifen fumarate. Ketotifen is a type of antihistamine and mast cell stabilizer.

Antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers treat allergies by blocking the release of histamines. These are naturally occurring substances that cause allergic reactions.

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

Who Should Use Eye Drops for Allergies?

Healthcare professionals recommend eye drops containing antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers for people with eye allergies. You may find that allergy eye drops relieve your eye allergy symptoms, even if oral antihistamines don’t.

Most people with itchy, irritated eyes caused by histamine reactions will benefit from short-term use of allergy eye drops. If you have long-term (chronic) allergies, we recommend seeing a board-certified allergist for treatment.

Who Should Not Use Eye Drops for Allergies?

Eye drops for allergies won’t treat red, itchy, or watery eyes caused by other problems, such as bacterial infection.

Speak with your doctor before taking antihistamine eye drops if you experience the following conditions:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
  • High eye pressure or glaucoma
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) or heart disease
  • Chronic health conditions, such as kidney disease or liver disease

You should also call your eye doctor if your symptoms are due to a problem other than an eye allergy. They will recommend the appropriate treatment.

What Causes Eye Allergies?

Many things can cause eye allergies. They’re usually caused by environmental triggers, such as:

  • Dust mites
  • Mold spores
  • Pollen
  • Pet dander
  • Contact lenses (rare)

Although avoiding known triggers is often the first line of defense in treating eye allergy symptoms, this isn’t always possible. In these cases, antihistamine eye drops can help.

How to Use Antihistamine Eye Drops

If you have any questions about using eye drops for allergies, the best thing to do is ask your doctor or pharmacist. If you wear contact lenses, ask your doctor if you can wear contacts while using antihistamine eye drops.

Here are general steps to follow when using antihistamine eye drops:

  1. Carefully read the instructions. 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.
  2. Be mindful of contact lenses. Remove your contact lens before applying the drops unless the instructions indicate they’re safe for contact use.
  3. Wash your hands. Use soap and warm water to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before applying eye drops. 
  4. Avoid touching the dropper tip. Don’t touch the eye dropper tip to your eye or anything else, as this can cause contamination.
  5. Tilt your head backward and pull down your lower eyelid. Then apply the eye drop to the affected eye as directed.
  6. Close your eyes and gently massage your eyelid. It will prevent the eye drop from washing away.
  7. Store your eye drops in a cool place. The temperature should be between 59°F and 86°F (15°C and 30°C).
  8. Wait before wearing contacts. After applying eye drops, check its instructions for how long you should wait before wearing your contacts.

Only use antihistamine eye drops for as long as prescribed or when necessary. Overuse of antihistamine eye drops can lead to more problems.

Side Effects of Allergy Eye Drops

In some cases, antihistamine eye drops may cause mild symptoms and side effects. They can include: 

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

Common Questions about Antihistamine Eye Drops

Can you get antihistamine eye drops over the counter?

Yes. While some antihistamine eye drops are only available with a doctor’s prescription, all the eye drops on our list are OTC.

Do antihistamine eye drops help reduce redness?

Antihistamine eye drops may help relieve eye allergy symptoms such as redness, itching, and watery eyes. 

However, if eye redness is due to another problem, such as dry eye syndrome or a bacterial or viral infection, antihistamine eye drops won’t help. You may benefit from a different type of drop, such as artificial tears or antibiotic eye drops.

Is it bad to use antihistamine eye drops every day?

It’s best to use eye drops for allergies as needed and under the supervision of your doctor. Most antihistamine eye drops are for short-term use. Long-term use may lead to other eye problems, such as dry eyes.

Talk to your eye doctor if your allergy symptoms are severe or ongoing.

Which antihistamine eye drop is better — Zatidor or Pataday?

The best eye drops for you will depend on personal factors, including your allergy symptoms and preferences. 

Zaditor Antihistamine Eye Drops and Pataday Once Daily Relief are top picks for allergy eye drops. They use different active ingredients, so either brand may work better for you.

Summary

Antihistamine eye drops provide short-term relief from common eye allergy symptoms, such as itchy eyes and excessive tearing. They effectively treat allergic conjunctivitis (pink eye), not irritation caused by dry eye or infections.

Several brands of antihistamine eye drops are available without a prescription. Not all eye drops are safe to use with contact lenses. Talk to your eye doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about using antihistamine eye drops.

Updated on  February 5, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on  February 5, 2024
  1. “Ketotifen fumarate.” National Library of Medicine.

  2. Drug Guide.” American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.

  3. Turbert, D. “What Are Eye Allergies?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2022.

  4. Eye Allergy.” American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.

  5. Singh et al. “The epidemiology of ocular and nasal allergy in the United States, 1988-1994.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2010.

  6. How to Put in Eye Drops.National Eye Institute, 2021.

The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.