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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best eye drops for allergy relief

Last Updated September 2020

Red, itchy, weepy eyes are the bane of allergy sufferers as blood vessels in the eyes become inflamed and swell in response to exposure to pet dander, mold, or pollen.

Eye drops can soothe nerve endings in the eyes and block the histamines the body produces when it interacts with an allergen to relieve itching, redness, wateriness, and swelling so you can focus on work or play. But not all eye drops for allergy relief are equally created. Brands and formulas vary by type, potency, effectiveness, how quickly they resolve painful allergy reactions, and how often they can be safely used. 

If you’re on the hunt for relief from ocular symptoms caused by seasonal allergies, our buying guide can help you find the right eye drops for the job. In it, we explore the features that set different formulas apart so you can feel confident in your choice of eye drops. Read on: relief is on the way!

Wearing sunglasses can help protect your eyes from pollen and other outdoor allergens.

Key considerations

Your first considerations when choosing eye drops for allergies should be the severity of your allergy symptoms, how often you need to use eye drops, and the type of eye drops that best meet your needs.

Your symptoms

Keep in mind that the majority of over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops for allergies are geared toward treating one or two symptoms. For example, some formulas are great at knocking out itching and wateriness but less effective at clearing up redness. Other formulas reduce redness but are less effective at relieving itching and swelling.

Choose an eye drop formula that advertises specific claims about the ocular symptom, or symptoms, that bother you most. Note that eye drops advertising “dual-acting” or “multi-symptom” treatment is usually more effective at tackling several symptoms.

Frequency of use

Do you need eye drops for allergy relief once every few weeks when you go for a hike in the mountains? Every day during the summer? Those who frequently use allergy eye drops should choose a formula made for long-term use. Look for phrases like “long-lasting” or “12-hour protection.” Those who use allergy eye drops for infrequent but acute flare-ups should choose a fast-acting formula that clearly addresses their worst symptoms.

If you find yourself reaching for OTC eye drops multiple times a day for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about stronger prescription options or combining formulas. Always follow the directions on the label regarding the number of times you can safely use the eye drops per day.

Types of eyedrops

There are four types of eye drops you can use for allergy relief. Many are OTC products intended to combat seasonal allergy symptoms. Some can be purchased by prescription only but are formulated for daily treatment of more severe symptoms.

Antihistamine eye drops: Antihistamine eye drops are the first recommended line of defense for people with mild to moderate seasonal allergies. Antihistamine eye drops block histamine (a chemical your body produces in response to a perceived threat, like pollen or pet dander) to help calm redness, swelling, and itchiness.

Antihistamine eye drops work quickly, but their effectiveness often wears off within a few hours. You’ll find both OTC and prescription options available.

Anti-inflammatory eye drops: These eye drops work by soothing the nerve endings in the eye itself. They take effect more slowly than antihistamine eye drops (usually around an hour) but may last significantly longer, from 6 to 12 hours. Anti-inflammatory eye drops usually cause a mild, brief stinging sensation. These eye drops are available in OTC and prescription form.

Steroidal eye drops: Corticosteroid eye drops are available by prescription only, since they have additional risks and side effects like vision problems and eye pressure. This type of eye drop is prescribed only for severe cases and is not ideal for long-term use unless absolutely necessary.

Mast cell eye drops: This newer type of eye drop can be a lifesaver for people with severe or long-lasting allergies. Mast cell eye drops are available OTC and by prescription and are especially helpful for contact lens wearers because they can be safely used long term. These eye drops help prevent mast cells in the body from producing histamine.

EXPERT TIP

If you are allergic to pollen, keep an eye on pollen counts, and try to limit your time outside during peak days.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Moisturizing

Eye drops that combat itchiness and redness can sometimes dry out the eyes, especially with long-term or frequent use. If you’re using eye drops for moderate to severe allergies, consider choosing a formula with a term like “moisturizing,” “hydrating,” or “lubricating” in the description.

Portability

Some types of eye drops have a lid that pops on and off easily, which can lead to spills in your purse or backpack. Eye drops with a screw-on lid are both spill-safe and portable.

Preservative-free

The American Optometric Association requires all multi-dose eye drops (a bottle with several doses) to be fortified with preservatives to protect consumers from bacterial growth. However, some consumers are sensitive to these preservatives, which can irritate already painful eyes. If you have sensitive eyes, look for single-use, preservative-free options.

Sensation

Some formulas cause a stinging or burning sensation as soon as they hit the eye. While this sensation is generally mild and tolerable for adults, children may react strongly and become fearful of eye drops. Anti-inflammatory eye drops are likely to cause a stinging sensation.

Relief time

The amount of time it takes for a formula to start relieving symptoms varies from almost instantly to one hour or more. Antihistamine eye drops usually work the fastest. Anti-inflammatory eye drops take longer to work, but the relief from symptoms usually lasts longer.

EXPERT TIP

Avoid scratching your eyes. Not only will you further irritate them, but you may introduce additional allergens from your hands.


Staff  | BestReviews

Eye drops for allergy relief: prices

Inexpensive: Inexpensive eye drops can be found for as little as $3 to $6 for a single pack. Budget eye drops can be effective for mild to moderate allergies but usually require frequent application and offer less intensive relief.

Mid-range: Mid-range options run between $7 and $12. At this price, you’ll find fast-acting prescription-strength formulas with strong multi-symptom relief and longer-lasting relief (up to 12 hours). These formulas often include desirable moisturizing ingredients that are gentle on the eyes.

Expensive: While allergy eye drops priced from $13 to $25 might cause a bit of sticker shock, you’ll find some twin packs of mid-range brands in this price tier. Customers with severe allergies often swear by the priciest of eye drops for allergies, which weigh in at around $19 for a single pack. These expensive options usually tout “once per day” application and powerful results. That said, many people find that the mid-range options work just as well for their symptoms.

EXPERT TIP

If you have severe or chronic allergies, allergy shots administered over several months can help your body respond less dramatically to allergens.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • If you find a brand of eye drops you like, buy a twin pack. You can keep one bottle at home and one in your purse or car.
  • For additional relief after applying eye drops, soak a clean washcloth in cold water. Gently apply the cloth to your closed eyes for a few minutes.
  • If you use more than one kind of eye drop for your allergies, wait 10 minutes after applying one kind before applying another. Always use eye drops before eye ointments.
  • Determine if an oral allergy medicine can help. If your allergies are moderate or severe, you may find that your allergy eye drops are most effective when used in combination with an oral allergy medicine.
  • Pay attention to the expiration date on your eye drops. Expired eye drops should be tossed out immediately.
  • Know how to apply eye drops. To easily apply drops, lie on your back. Pull your lower eyelid out slightly and hold the bottle about an inch above it. Carefully squirt in one drop and close your eyes. Keep them eyes closed for two or three minutes for maximum effectiveness.
Wear glasses instead of contacts during allergy flare-ups to protect your eyes from damage caused by inadvertent rubbing or itching.

FAQ

Q. Can I use eye drops for allergies if I wear contacts?
A.
The majority of eye drops for allergies are safe for contact wearers but check the label first. Allergy eye drops should never be applied while you are wearing contacts. Remove your contacts before applying the eye drops and wait 15 minutes before reinserting them. Not only will this help your eyes absorb the drops, it will help prevent your contacts from becoming cloudy.
 

Q. What is the shelf life for allergy eye drops?
A.
If kept unopened in a cool, dry place, allergy eye drops usually have an expiration date of 12 months or longer. However, once opened, allergy eye drops are at risk for bacterial contamination from different sources, including your eyes and fingers. Take care to avoid contact between the tip of the bottle and your eyes or fingers and close the lid quickly after each use. Doctors typically recommend that you toss opened eye drops after two or three months, even if the expiration date is much further away.
 

Q. Are eye drops for allergies safe to use with young children?
A.
Eye drops for allergies are typically listed as safe for children ages three and up but be sure to check the label of the formula you intend to use. Follow the recommended dosage carefully and store all allergy eye drops out of reach of young children, since these products restrict the size of blood vessels and can be dangerous if swallowed.

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The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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