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With allergy season upon us, I routinely have an influx of patients coming in for red, watery eyes. This condition is known as allergic conjunctivitis and symptoms range from person to person.
While I can easily tackle this problem in the office, there are also great over the counter options that you can try at home. In this article, I’ll cover some of the best over the counter and prescription allergy eye drops available.
First, what are the symptoms of eye allergies?
The most common symptom of eye allergy is itching. However, symptoms can range from redness, dryness, watery eyes, and puffiness around the eyes.
Furthermore, eye allergies can flare up at any time but most commonly occur in the spring or fall when allergens are at their highest. For most people, eye allergy symptoms last for 4-8 weeks and primarily during allergy season.
What are your eye allergy treatment options?
This will sound obvious but the easiest thing to do is to avoid what you are allergic to! I understand this is not always possible so luckily there are great over the counter and prescription allergy eye drops that can help with the itching associated with allergies.
What are the best over the counter allergy eye drops?
Zaditor (ketotifen 0.025%) was FDA approved in 1999. Until 2006, this drop was only available as a prescription but you can now find it over the counter in most pharmacies. It is approved for use in children as young as 3 years of age and it’s dosed as one drop twice a day.
Alaway (ketotifen 0.025%) was approved in 2006 and it is dosed like Zaditor, one drop twice a day. It is also approved for use in children as young as 3 years of age and is in the same price range as Zaditor.
Two new OTC allergy eye drops
The two above drops are nearly identical to each other so if you have tried one without success, we do have another great option. Pataday and Patanol are two prescription over the counter allergy eye drops that, as of March 2020, just went over the counter! This is great news for patients because they are very effective at controlling allergy symptoms.
Pataday Once Daily Relief (Pataday)
Pataday (olopatadine 0.2%) is a stronger antihistamine drop compared to Zaditor or Alaway and is being marketed OTC as Pataday Once Daily Relief. It was approved in 1996 and is approved for use in children as young as 3 years old. This drop is dosed as one drop once a day. At the time of this writing, it is slightly more expensive than Zaditor or Alaway but is proven to be more effective.
Pataday Twice Daily Relief (Patanol)
Patanol (olopatadine 0.1%) is a slightly lower concentration of Pataday and is dosed more frequently at one drop twice a day. It is being marketed OTC as Pataday Twice Daily Relief and is also approved for use in children as young as 3 years old.
What are the best prescription allergy eye drops?
If the over the counter allergy eye drops do not seem to relieve your symptoms, there are great prescription options as well. The most popular ones are Bepreve, Lastacaft, and Pazeo.
Bepreve (bepotastine besilate 1.5%) was FDA approved in 2009 and is dosed one drop twice a day. One notable side effect of this medication is that 25% of patients in their clinical trial had a mild taste following the installation of the drop. The drop is also approved for use in children as young as 2 years old. Through the Bausch + Lomb Access Program, you might pay as little as $10 for Bepreve.
Lastacaft (alcaftadine 0.25%) was approved in 2010 and is dosed as one drop once a day. The drop works up to 16 hours a day and is approved for use in children as young as 2 years old. Through the Lastacaft Savings Program, you might save up to $50 on two Lastacaft prescription refills.
Pazeo (olopatadine hydrochloride 0.7%) was approved in 2015 and is a much stronger concentration of the over the counter option, Pataday. The drop works up to 24 hours, is dosed as one drop once daily, and is safe to use in kids age 2 and up. Through the Pazeo Savings Program, you might pay as little as $10 for Pazeo.
Are there any allergy eye drops that you can use with contacts in?
Unfortunately, no. All of the above drops are not to be used while your contacts are in.
If you wear contact lenses, you will need to instill one drop in the morning, wait 10-15 minutes, then put your contacts in. In the evening, remove your contacts and use the second drop (if necessary).
Pataday has become my first line over the counter treatment option for my patients with allergic conjunctivitis. It has a slightly higher price point as compared to the others on the market but it’s effective and still relatively inexpensive.
Pazeo is my preferred prescription allergy eye drop due to its efficacy, infrequent dosing, and approval for most pediatric patients. However, if you have tried these drops and they do not seem to help your symptoms, we do have other options!
Interested in learning more about effective ways to manage your eye allergies? Make an appointment with your eye care provider for more personalized recommendations.
What’s your favorite allergy eye drop? Share you thoughts in the comments below!