Watery eyes

Now with update!

Seasonal allergies. I forget I have them. In fact, I only realized that's what they were when I was mentally describing myself to myself this morning as "It feels like I'm swimming around in a vat of jello." And I remembered that that's what it felt like last year. Funny how storytelling is my main sensory mode.

Anyway, last year I tried Claritin, and the other one (Zyrtec?), and neither gave me enough relief for the side effects they caused. Since this is a 6-week problem for me, it doesn't seem to be worth going through getting allergy shots.

Then I thought about the children, and all the little kids who go through this every year, and who can't be medicated to the teeth, either. (Hey, did you know the number 1 symptom of environmental allergies in little kids is dark circles under the eyes?)

So, what do you have for me and all of us on natural treatments for seasonal allergies, that will work for adults and children? I'm going to try the Zicam nose gel stuff first, and will let you know how it goes. But what else has worked? It seems to me that acupuncture should work on this, but has anyone tried it? Vitamin supplements? Eating local honey helps a little, but not enough for me. Self-hypnosis? Any kind of wacky leaves or berries I can ingest orally or or use as a poultice?

Update: Based on advice from the comments, I'm not going to try the nose gel. Instead, I'm mainlining Vitamin C in the form of EmergenC powder (raspberry flavor, to be specific). I'm going to try for 3,000 mgs a day for this next week.

59 thoughts on “Watery eyes”

  1. Neti pot! Can’t recommend it for kids but it makes my symptoms much better. I use it one in the AM and once in the PM during high season.

  2. Fairly high doses of Vitamin C can help a lot with allergies, at least my husband takes 1000 mg twice a day when we stay with my parents who have a cat. He usually can’t stop sneezing around cats, but the Vitamin C makes him completely normal. You’ll want to take buffered Vitamin C which won’t bother your stomach, otherwise you’ll replace sneezing and watery eyes with running to the bathroom 😉

  3. As a life long allergy sufferer (all the time, not just seasonal…yay for me), I’ve abandoned all hope in terms of medication. I just don’t like the way it feels (my younger sister, on the other hand, takes whatever the latest and greatest prescription is religiously, so your mileage may vary).I feel like I heard something about the Zicam nose gel, maybe that people were losing their sense of smell? Can’t remember, but you should probably check with Dr. Google before you get going with that.
    For me, what works best (in terms of what I ingest) is drinking a lot of water, getting enough sleep (aren’t I funny today!), and doing my best to avoid things that are real triggers for me (freshly mown grass, cigarette smoke, etc.). I used to take alfalfa tablets in great quantities, and as I recall, I thought that was helpful, but it was too much trouble, so I stopped. I do take a multivitamin and fish oil capsules every day.
    Honestly, and this may sound a little odd, but I think the most helpful thing for my allergies has been getting regular chiropractic adjustments over the last ten years. I go once every 2-3 weeks, more frequently if I’m feeling out of sorts, and it seems to have helped keep the worst of it at bay. I take the kids too.
    But…I still have those stupid allergic shiners (as my mom always called the dark circles under my eyes).
    Good luck.

  4. I always forget that I have allergies too. Vitamin C has helped me, when I first noticed that it was helping I was using buffered vitamin c (the kind that fizzes), but now I use any kind. I’m not sure if it’ll work for everyone, and it’s not a miracle for me but it just takes the edge off so that I don’t feel like clawing my eyes out.

  5. BE CAREFUL of the Zicam nose gel! If it’s still a zinc suspension (they have different products, I’m not sure about the one for allergies), it can permanently decrease your sense of smell and taste. That’s been a known side-effect of intra-nasal zinc for a few decades, I believe (I mean, known to researchers/doctors/etc., not necessarily to the masses). My dad now can’t taste chocolate and a lot of other stuff because of Zicam nose gel.For colds, etc, the lozenges are fine. Just keep the zinc out of your nose!
    Other than that, I don’t have a lot of advice – the neti pot helps me, but then so does Claritin-D (that’s the one with an added decongestant).

  6. Another one to say be careful of Zicam in the nose. I lost my sense of smell (and therefore taste) for a week or two when I was using them. IT SUCKED!!! I was lucky in that my senses came back, but apparently not everyone’s does. I understand there was a lawsuit and I think that Zicam has improved its formula or something, but I’m still wary.Local honey is my only natural suggestion. A teaspoon a day, and preferably from trees/areas that contain your allergen.
    @Dawn – Have you tried allergy shots? You have to do it often and over years, but they helped me incredibly with my cat and dust allergies.

  7. I find that running a humidifier helps most of the time (but I live in a desert). If I feel I need anything more than that, I take a single Sudafed (half a dose). I found out when I was nursing that half a dose would make me feel better without affecting my supply. But I get stuffy sinuses as my main symptom, not watery eyes. I’ve used a neti pot, too. It’s great, but be prepared for some gross stuff coming out… 🙂

  8. Two words: neti pot. Takes a little practice but it works wonders. I think it was harvard that did a study and found it worked better than meds for allergies. I tried it a few years ago when I was pregnant and didn’t want to take the meds I had been taking for years. Haven’t looked back since.

  9. What side effects did claritin and zyrtec cause? they are generally very well tolerated. Are you sure it was those meds? Also what many ppl don’t realize is they don’t help much if you take them sporadically but are amazing if you take them everyday until the season is over for you.

  10. Yeah, allergies suck.I’ve had a lot of luck with the steroid-based nose sprays. Those are prescription, though, and you may have to try a few to find the one that doesn’t irritate your nose. Which sucks if your insurance will only pay for one of the different brands, and that brand makes your nose bleed… but I digress.
    Since you’re applying them topically, very little gets into your system and most people’s side effects are minor.
    But then, I have never experienced any side effects with Claritin.
    The absolute best pharmacological relief from allergies that I have ever had was from taking Singulair. I had to drop that when I got pregnant, though- there wasn’t enough data to indicate that it was safe, and from what I knew about the mechanism of action, I didn’t consider it worth the risk. Once I’m done nursing, though, I may go back on it.
    I also use allergy eye drops quite a bit. Those are over the counter and provide excellent short term relief from itchy eyes.
    Zicam was slapped with a warning from the FDA because they had so many complaints about loss of taste/smell, and I think they actually had to stop selling some of their products. I’d avoid that… and I’m not sure it would do any good against allergies, anyways. I have always thought of zinc as more of a treatment for colds, and suspected its mechanism of action was based on preventing the cold virus from getting into new cells (but that is pure speculation- as far as I know, no one has really studied the mechanism of action of zinc. Since it is sold as a supplement, not a drug, the manufacturers are not required to actually demonstrate that it works).
    I’ve heard lots of good things about neti pots. I may have to try one next time my allergies flare up.
    The other thing you could do is actually get tested to see what you’re allergic to. If you come back with a dust mite allergy, you may get a surprising amount of relief just by getting the allergen-proof covers for your mattresses and pillows.

  11. Part of the problem may be that drugs don’t always seem to work on me the way they work on other people. Claritin, I remember, just made me feel spacey and dizzy, and didn’t actually make my eyes stop watering or itching. I gave it a week, but that was enough to make me know I didn’t want to feel that way anymore. I’m not positive the other one was Zyrtec. After I gave up on Claritin, it was the other kind you can buy OTC. That one just seemed to do nothing, even after a week.Since this is a 6-week problem for me (April and a little bit of May every year), I can only assume it’s pollen and other flowering plant-related things.
    It’s itchiness and watery eyes, so I don’t know how much the neti pot will actually flush out, but I can definitely do it every night, if not in the morning.

  12. Last year on Science Friday I heard a renowned allergist/MD say that for his patients the single most effective treatment for seasonal allergies was the sinus rinse – either a neti pot or the Neil Med-type spray bottle. He said it was more effective than all medications! And no side effects.My kids (8 & 6) do it twice a day during summer. It took a day or two, but they got used to it. Now they kind of like it. Just like they like chewing fish oil capsules. Yuck!

  13. Wow – I just realised my son might have seasonal allergies. He’s had the dark circles under his eyes and a runny nose for the last two weeks. I’ve been thinking that he was coming down with a cold – but it’s never materialised. He’s been in a good mood otherwise. I have no allergies so it didn’t occur to me.

  14. The Zicam with zinc is the cold varriation and although it was a glorious gift from the heavens (for me YMMV) they no longer make it. Allergy one does not have zinc.I did the seasonal local honey last year (gotta be spring honey for spring allergies) and it was AMAZING for me. No hook-up for the honey this year and I am sad.
    Neti pot is awesome but doesn’t help me too much with the desire to claw out my eyes.

  15. Chiropractics! Worked like the most amazing thing in the world for my son last year (he was two). The doc said, a garden hose can’t work if you’re standing on it – ie, if the vertebrae are out of alignment and pushing on the nerves, they can’t adequately work.All I know is we went from a box of Kleenex for him every three days to NONE. In one day. With one treatment. He had followups to keep things stable but we eased off those after a month.
    We tried claritin, zyrtec, and 3 others with no success at all. Humidifier helped a tiny bit. Can’t bring myself to do a Neti pot on him or me but I should look into it … but the chiro worked such magic I’m sticking by her.

  16. Acupuncture does work! I’m an acupuncturist and herbalist and have had a lot of success treating patients with just acupuncture, just herbs, and combining both. It’s not a magic bullet – it take consistent treatment, not just once. But the side effects are decreased stress, better sleep, and an hour just to relax.Personally, I use herbs to control my allergies which last from now until fall frost.

  17. My only seasonal allergy symptom is itchy, watery eyes and the prescription eyedrop PATANOL is magical. I only use it during allergy season — 1 drop in each eye, once a day. Poof! Gone! Win!

  18. neti pot!!!! Actually, I use an old peri wash bottle left over from Dd1’s birth. lol. But the concept is the same and so effective!

  19. We use Xlear nasal spray here. Its a saline base with Xylitol in it. The saline moistens and washes bad stuff away, while the Xylitol coats the nasal passages with its sugary magic and keeps the pollens out. I was never sure how severe of allergies it would work for (ours are all fairly mild) until I let a friend try it this past weekend. After all his prescription drugs did nothing for him, a few sprays Xlear gave relief.

  20. Another vote for the neti pot. I’ve also found Similasan eye drops (homeopathic, I think) work well, and do-it-yourself acupressure to be very helpful. Bizarrely, I find the acupressure is most helpful for more acute sinus buildup.Kosher salt (1/2 tsp/1 cup water) is great in the neti, with heated filtered water. If you use flonase or something like that, use it after you’ve done the neti pot — it works much better.
    Sometimes mucinex helps, too.
    Can you tell I live in Atlanta.

  21. I love Allegra (every day in the morning for a month whether I’m having symptoms or not once the first sinuc headache of teh year appears).Claritin didn’t work, and I haven’t tried Zyrtec (though my youngest has taken the liquid for an allergy and tolerated it well).
    I’ve been using the neti pot a lot lately and it helps with the congestion in the nose but does nothing for the sinus headache.
    And my oldest kid does get the “allergic shiners” or dark circles under his eyes but I’ve never figured out what it is he is allergic to (and we did non-environmental allergy testing on him but he was too young for the grass/pollen tests).

  22. If it’s mostly your eyes, get a Rx for eye drops. If it’s your nose, get a Rx for a nassal spray. Those are waaaaaaay more effective and with fewer side effects than a pill. I speak from experience.Also, one sort of weird (yet with acutal! scientific! basis!) thing to try is eating local honey. You need to eat kind of a lot (it something like 3 Tbs a day) and it needs to be local, but it does decrease symptoms (you know, after awhile).

  23. When I was living in the Midwest, I had horrible hay fever for several weeks every August to the first frost. The only thing that really helped me (and I tried every available option) was a steroid shot at the onset of symptoms. It’s long enough ago (I’ve since moved to California) that I don’t remember what exactly they gave me, but that might be the ticket for you, too. Or move to some other part of the country where they don’t have whatever you are allergic to.

  24. Moxie- FYI: I got a huge benefit from the allergen proof mattress and pillow covers, even though my allergies primarily occur seasonally.The dust mite allergy was always there, at a low level, ramping my immune system up but not to the point that I really noticed. And then the seasonal pollen came along and WHAM! Major symptoms.
    Of course, this may not be the case for you, but it is a side effect free thing to try.
    I’d never heard of the local honey thing, but thinking about it, it makes a certain amount of sense since local honey will be made from the pollen that is giving you trouble. Interesting.

  25. Didn’t read all the comments, but I will say the Zicam nose gel for allergies is completely different than the one for colds. The cold remedy, with zinc, is, I believe, the one that’s been causing all the sense of smell problems. The allergy one is mostly menthol, so it’s kind of like putting a cough drop up your nose. I actually find it helps clear the passages and is somewhat soothing temporarily, but if putting anything from Zicam up your nose after the cold remedy scandal has you nervous, you could probably get the same effects with steaming or a little Vicks around the edges of your nose. I don’t know what the claims were for how Zicam combats actual allergic reactions, but I don’t recall it doing much for me for more than a few hours.

  26. I wish my allergic reactions were confined to watery eye. I have a Rag Weed allergy that I am currently being vaccinated for, but that won’t kick in for another couple of years.My reaction is mainly asthmatic (difficulties breathing, asthmatic cough) and itchy eyes. My allergist has prescribed me with a nasal spray called Avamys (for you European sufferers). I haven’t yet had the pleasure of using it though, but I have high expectations seeing my allergy guy is the European Rag Weed expert.
    I hear nasal irrigation is great for air-borne allergies too. Get yourself a syringe and boil some water with a pinch of salt. When the water has cooled down inject the water into the nostril letting it drain out the other one. Then do the same for the other nostril. Kids mind it less than adults. Also helps keep common colds at bay.

  27. I’ve done acupuncture for seasonal allergies before, and it really worked. Come to think of it, I don’t know why I haven’t done it the last couple of years. I only needed one treatment, but I’ve heard it sometimes takes 2 or 3 to really be effective

  28. The strength of salt water recommended by my allergist and the company who makes the nasal syringe I use is 1 tsp per 1 cup of water. I’ve accidentally used plain water before and it stings! Like getting lake water up your nose or something. Using the right strength saline matches your body’s salt level and won’t sting. Still feels like water going up your nose but it’s not really unpleasant.

  29. I can’t take Claritin or Zyrtec either. But they finally brought back my favorite, Chlor-Trimeton 12 hour, which works better than anything else I’ve ever tried. I also found that doing a saline rinse with commercial saline nasal drops helps quite a bit during tree pollen season. Several of my friends swear by nettle tea for allergies, but I haven’t tried that yet.

  30. I’ve had horrendous life-long seasonal allergies and nothing has worked for me (not the neti pot, no over the counter stuff, herbal remedies, nada) until this year. i began a nasal steroid (nasonex) and a prescription eye drop (pataday) about 6 weeks before allergy season began. now i am allergy symptom-free for the first spring EVER. it’s awesome. 🙂

  31. Okay, I’m going to have to get a neti pot. Everyone says it works so well.The prescription eye drops were great for my itchy eyes, but I wasn’t supposed to use them when my contact were in, which was most of the time. Does anyone know if that’s still true?

  32. This is not natural, but I have horrible allergies to the point of having to take allergy shots. I have taken Claritin every day for YEARS. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that the regular claritin doesn’t work for me either. I have to take Claritin D 24 hour. Works like a charm. It is difficult to get here in GA, though cause people use it to make meth, so it is behind the counter and I have to show my license and stuff.

  33. Hey – my little guy ALWAYS has under eye circles. And nearly year round congestion. The doctor has never mentioned allergies though she did give a sample pack of Zyrtec for kids but it was a liquid and he won’t take it. I don’t have allergies at all so no remedies to offer but interesting about the dark under eye circles.

  34. Caramama: I had Patanol (I think) and I definitely wore my contacts. I had to put the drops in half and hour (ish) before I put in the lenses, so I got used to showering nearly blind.

  35. About the dozenth vote for the neti-pot – my 7 year old has also been using it as needed for the last year – it takes like twice to get used to, but he’s a pro – and he doesn’t even really like to blow his nose, frankly, so I think that’s a testament to the ease of use! I actually use a saline wash with a nasal syringe and squirt the solution in a bit more aggressively, as I feel like it gets more gunk out, but that’s not for the faint of heart. Neti-ing is much easier than you’d think.

  36. For what it’s worth, the Zicam stuff that was causing (a very small number of) people to lose their sense of smell was the cold remedy and it has been taken off the market. I used the cold remedy all the time (as directed) and never had an issue with losing my sense of smell. (Yes, I am bitter.) Anyway, I haven’t heard anything (yet) about the allergy relief gel causing any issues. On the other hand, I suspect most people don’t want to risk it!I take a generic allergy relief medicine – the ingredient is Loratadine.
    Good luck.

  37. PLEASE someone have an answer. I love DH except during allergy season. Which in AZ is 4-5 months of the year!!! He SNORES!We’ve tried everything from honey to now he takes a Sudafed each night before bed.
    I will read all of this later. I’m hopeful that someone has some wisdom on this- HELP!
    Thanks for this post Moxie.

  38. Oo, Chlor-Trimeton is sooo good. Also consider quercetin, a naturally occurring compoud that allegedly helps fight seasonal allergy symptoms. You can buy in in capsules, or you can get a good dose by eating your apple a day. Really. Apple skins apparently have useful levels of the stuff. I used to take the caps and they worked…okay. Now I use a prescription nasal mist, because I can always find something to cause an allergic reaction including now, I wish I were joking, Singulair.

  39. As others said, Zyrtec only works for me if I take it every day for the duration. Last year I really started noticing a difference around the 6 day mark. Everything just cleared up for me!

  40. I have hayfever (March to August) and rhinitis (year round cold-like symptoms every morning). One natural rememdy that works brilliantly for the rhinitis and helps somewhat with the hayfever is halibut liver oil capsules. They are tiny capsules but they have a much higher dose of the magic ingredient (omega 3?) than codliver oil capsules. One a day and I have no rhinitis symptoms. It’s marketed as Vegetarian Omega 3 in some pharmacies. Halibut liver oil capsules completely stopped my mum’s hayfever symptoms and reduced the frequency of her asthma attacks as well, so a double bonus for her.Zirtec is my hayfever drug of choice, but I haven’t been able to take it for the last couple of years because of pregnancy and breast feeding.
    I’ll be interested to read the rest of the comments. I have allergy shiners, as do my 2 daughters. The hayfever/asthma/excema trio run in the family. I have hayfever, my eldest daughter has mild excema and my youngest daughter is being monitored for possible asthma. Sigh. I had so hoped that by breastfeeding for 9 months each I might have helped them to escape the family allergies.

  41. Absolutely, neti pot!!! Even if I’m not actively congested, I feel like I’m not fully functional in the morning until I’ve used my neti. The greatest benefit (besides immediate relief from congestion) is that you simply cannot overdose. When I do have a cold, I would use it 4-6x a day. My only addendum to everyone else’s suggestions would be to buy non iodized salt (e.g. Kosher salt, or just the plain salt that’s next to the Morton’s in the grocery).

  42. Neti pot. My naturopath convinced me to try it twice a day for two weeks (I was skeptical) and damned if she wasn’t right. Now I notice when I miss a day. Like I did yesterday. And I’m all sneezy.

  43. I took capsules of freeze dried nettles one year and swear they worked both all the time and in moments of extreme reactions. My allergies haven’t really been bad since then (that must have been 9 years ago) so I’ve not needed to use them. Otherwise, I vote for the neti pot too.

  44. Anyone taking vit C know anything about giving it to kids? Like dosing etc?What about the other natural stuff?

  45. Mine got worse over 10+ years and I eventually did allergy shots, which for some reason lots of people consider unnatural, yet are actually one of the most natural ways of all to treat them. Pretty much cured me. Sounds like you’re not at that stage yet, but let the idea start percolating in case you do get consistently worse. I did a long course of them (4 years, but you only get a shot every 3 weeks or so once at maintenance dose), and got better results than people who do short courses. It changed my life, I am an allergy shot evangelist now.

  46. @stillbecoming: What I know about vitamin C dosing is that whatever the body doesn’t need it will pee out. I can’t remember for sure, but I think it will give you loose stools at too high a dose as well. That said, I wouldn’t give a kid mega doses without checking with a doctor or pharmacist first.FWIW, I’ve been giving my two year old “Orange Juice Jr.” by Nature’s Plus. It’s a 100mg chewable, and he gets it 1-3 times a day. It tastes a lot like a sweet tart.

  47. It may only be six weeks, but it’s six weeks a year for how many years? I honestly would opt for allergy shots – let the body’s natural state get a bit stimulated, then take care of the problem for good.I also agree with the neti pot … love the neti pot.
    Lots of laundry. Clean clothes. HEPA air filters.
    Also – this sounds weird but it works – a small dab of Preparation H massaged into the skin under the eyes will relieve the puffiness and circles. (Safe, just be careful and don’t get it *in* your eyes.)

  48. For adults who have tried everything else & are ready to be done with the stuffy nose, itchy eyes etc, I enthusiastically second @Brooke (3/24 1:11pm) about the benefits of Rx nasal spray. Generic Flonase (fluticasone propionate) spray has completely rid DH and me of all of our horrific seasonal allergies we had been suffering from since childhood. Amazing!

  49. Quercetin and neti pot, both at least daily during allergy season, more often as needed.That has been my miracle sinus/nose fix, almost as good as Flonase.
    I have also heard good things about tumeric, which is an anti-inflammatory. And it would probably make you smell like curry, too!
    My eyes though…I have to use prescription drops (Patanol). But they’ve been better since I started the quercetin.

  50. This will sound bizarre, but have you tried eliminating gluten? Sometimes a gluten reaction can manifest as hypersensitivity to other allergens. I’ve heard several colleagues report their seasonal allergies abated after going gluten-free.

  51. I just worked out that my 3 year old son has seasonal allergies; at first I thought it was a cold, then pink eye, then I realized I’d called the doctor last year this time about what I thought was pink eye. He has shiners, and folds under his red eyes. He’s constantly rubbing his eyes. Poor guy. After reading a little about some side effects of zyrtec in kids I’m reluctant to even try him on that, though I did get the eye drops for him. I used benadryl a few times at night and that helped, but I’m not comfortable giving him that all the time. Sigh, we’ll see what his ped says next week.

  52. Claritin does nothing for me anymore, so I’m doing Zyrtec. I also did an alternative therapy (acupuncture-based) that worked wonders for me, but I still react to a couple of things (down from several hundred things) and the trees blooming are one of them. I recommend an air cleaner for your bedroom, and humidifiers in other rooms to keep the air from getting too dry. Not sure what happens if you put a humidifier and an air cleaner in the same room.But acupuncture helps a lot but you have to go at least once a week during the period you have allergies. Also I have heard great things about the neti pot although I have yet to try it. And when you come in from outdoors, take your clothes off, put them in the laundry, take a shower (if possible) and that gets a lot of the pollen off you, so you’ll be comfortable.
    Also, my former allergist told me that allergies are like a bucket…a little dust, some foods you are sensitive to, some pollen, all that adds to what is in your “bucket.” Then suddenly you add one more thing and boom…you get a reaction like sneezing or coughing or watery eyes. So the more you can reduce the load on your body of what it is exposed to, the less you will react. That’s probably why the neti pot helps…it washes all that stuff out of the nasal passages so there is less to react to.
    And here’s the link to the allergy therapy I did. It really changed my life. I never knew if was possible to eat without being in pain (I’ve had many food allergies all my life.)
    I am not affiliated in any way with these people, just can vouch for its effectiveness (in spite of the weirdness of it).

  53. SB, did you get an answer about the eyes? My 2 yr old son has the same issues, and the Patanol eye drops prescribed by the Pediatrician I just discovered is not recommended for kids under three yrs old (so much for relying on the Pediatrician’s expertise!!!!).Please share!

  54. Well, for me n expert eye must identify the need for specific procedure and be responsible for conducting the procedure safely. Remember prevention is better than a cure,so make sure that you have an eye care examination.jayn

  55. MAXIDEX DEXAMETHASONE WARNINGI had eye surgery and in the post-op pack was MAXIDEX(dexamethasone) drops by ALCON LABS.
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