While not normally considered a serious problem, swollen eyes are annoying, uncomfortable, and can make you look and feel less than your lovely best. But if you give into the urge to rub your swollen, itchy eyes, this may lead to an exacerbation of your symptoms or infection.
Of course, the best treatment for swollen eyes from any allergy is to eliminate as much of that allergen in your environment as possible. While you can’t do much about the mold growing in your fallen leaves or in the soil outside your home, you can reduce indoor mold and avoid consuming foods that could contain mold, like aged cheeses, dried fruit, vinegars, wine and coffee.
Try Natural Remedies
If you want to use natural remedies to soothe your swollen eyes, start with compresses you can make at home. Compresses offer cooling comfort without the need for pharmaceuticals. Use one made from green tea and you’ll bathe your poor, swollen eyes with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories to help fight allergens, and tannins to bring down the swelling. Brew a strong cup of tea, and then chill. Soak a clean washcloth in the tea and hold over the eyes for about 15 to 20 minutes. You can also save your used tea bags (best kept in a clean, airtight jar in the refrigerator) and hold one over each closed lid. Puffiness around your eyes can also be temporarily relieved with a blue-gel mask. Keep the mask in the refrigerator rather than the freezer, as very cold temperatures may be uncomfortable against the delicate skin of the eye area.
Over the Counter Help
If reducing the mold in your environment and using compresses does not help, then it’s time to head to the pharmacy.
Many brands of artificial tears are available over the counter. They can help flush the mold spores from your eyes temporarily, and, if stored in the refrigerator, can bring some welcome relief. These can be quite beneficial during warm, moist times of the year, when molds flourish.
You can also try one of the many OTC eye drops to help with swelling, as well as redness and itching. OTC drops contain decongestants, antihistamines, or combinations of the two. The combination drop is more effective against swelling than antihistamines alone. You’ll need to use them frequently throughout the day, but prolonged use (more than a few days) could lead to the same kind of “rebound effect” (increase in symptoms) you can get from stopping nasal decongestant sprays. They also become less effective with use.
Swollen eyes may also respond to oral antihistamines, but you could get a basket full of side effects (drowsiness, dizziness, or excitability, for example) along with it.
Get a Prescription
See your doctor for a prescription if these don’t help. Higher-potency antihistamine drops work quickly on itching and less quickly on swelling, but still need to be used a few times a day for the greatest relief. Newer drops called mast-cell stabilizers block the release of histamines, the substance produced by the body to cause an allergic response. These work best if you take them before exposure. Good if you know that you’ll be going to Aunt Mabel’s moldy old house for the holidays; not so good if you get a sudden whiff of a load of wet towels someone left to mildew in the washing machine.
Serious cases of swelling may be relieved by corticosteroid drops, but long term use may have side effects like cataracts. Use of steroid drops for longer than two weeks should only be with the supervision of an ophthalmologist.
Mold is pervasive in the world, from spores growing on damp surfaces in our homes to those living in the soil of our gardens and even in that perfectly aerated glass of Merlot. But you can take measures to reduce the misery of swollen eyes from mold allergy.
MedicineNet.com, “Eye Allergy Symptoms, Causes, Treatment” https://www.medicinenet.com/eye_allergy/page4.htm
ACAAI, “Eye Allergies - Believe your eyes, and see what they may be telling you.” https://www.acaai.org/patients/resources/allergies/Pages/eye-allergies.aspx
Science Daily, “Green Tea May Fight Allergies” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020919071413.htm
Planet Green.com, “5 Reuses for a Teabag” https://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/reuses-tea-bags.html