The 8 Best Eye Drops for Allergies of 2021

Relieve itchy eyes with these top picks

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Eye Drops for Allergies

Verywell / Sabrina Jiang

First Look

Best Overall: Alaway Antihistamine Eye Drops at Amazon

"It starts working right away and can be used with contact lenses (following the directions on the packaging)."

Best Budget: Visine Allergy Eye Relief Multi-Action Eye Drops at Amazon

"This all-purpose eye drop treats multiple symptoms for a cheaper-than-average cost."

Best for Redness: Opcon-A Antihistamine & Redness Reliever Eye Drops at Amazon

"With an antihistamine and decongestant, these drops will stop itching and redness at the same time."

Best for Contact Lens Wearers: Refresh Optive Lubricant Eye Drops at Amazon

"Portable moisturization for allergy sufferers that’s safe to use with soft contact lenses."

Best for Dry Eyes: Systane Lubricant Eye Drops at Amazon

"The first line of defense against eye allergies is often artificial tears; this a reliable brand is recommended by doctors for fast lubrication."

Best for Itchy Eyes: Pataday Once Daily Relief at Amazon

"This eye drop starts relieving allergy symptoms right away and lasts up to 16 hours, so you can use it and get back to your day."

Best for Natural: Similasan Allergy Eye Relief Drops at Amazon

"These homeopathic eye drops are made with natural active ingredients and will stop itching and redness at the same time."

Best for Watery Eyes: Zatidor Antihistamine Eye Drops at Amazon

"Watery eyes need an antihistamine-based eye drop, and Zatidor is a regularly recommended brand for treating common eye allergy symptoms."

When you hear the words “seasonal allergies,” you probably think of nasal symptoms like sniffling and sneezing. But don’t forget about your eyes: they’re susceptible to environmental allergens, too, and can itch, burn, water, and turn red at the drop of a hat (or, in this case, the drop of a single pollen-coated flower).

Plus, pollen isn’t the only offender—pet dander, dust, ragweed, and grass can also cause your eyes to have an allergic reaction. Common OTC allergy medications may help, but according to University of Missouri Health Care allergist Christine Franzese, MD, eye allergy symptoms are some of the hardest ones to treat.

“Oral antihistamines will help with eye symptoms about 50% of the time and nasal steroid sprays, like fluticasone, will help 60% of the time,” she says. “So there will be patients where other medications aren’t helping or aren’t helping enough.”

For these patients, eye drops may work the best when it comes to stopping many of the symptoms of eye allergies, whether it’s dryness and redness or itching and watering. There are several choices for eye allergy sufferers that provide relief for all kinds of symptoms—here are nine of the best options.

Best Overall: Alaway Antihistamine Eye Drops

Bausch and Lomb
Pros
  • Broad-spectrum allergy relief

  • Lasts up to 12 hours

  • Works quickly

Cons
  • May sting or burn with application

  • Can’t be used while contacts are in eye

Ketotifen, an antihistamine, is one of the most popular and effective ingredients in eye drops targeted at allergy relief. After all, your eyes respond to allergens the same way the rest of your body does: when they come into contact with a substance that causes an allergic reaction, they produce a chemical called histamines, which causes swelling, itching, pain, and other unpleasantries. 

Antihistamines like ketotifen are designed to block that response. Alaway, with its 12-hour protection, can easily be used to treat common allergic responses to pollen, pet dander, and grass. It starts working right away and can be used with contact lenses (following the directions on the packaging). 

Eye drops containing only antihistamines, like Alaway, are generally safe for everyday use.

Active Ingredients: Ketotifen 0.025% | Dosage: 1 drop in affected eye(s) twice per day or every 8-12 hours

What the Experts Say

“Ketotifen works by reducing eye allergies through its antihistamine and mast cell stabilizer properties. It works within minutes of administering the drops.”

Yuna Rapoport, M.D., director of Manhattan Eye in New York City

Best Budget: Visine Allergy Eye Relief Multi-Action Eye Drops

Visine
Pros
  • Relieves itching and redness

  • Works quickly

Cons
  • May cause redness rebound

  • Doesn’t last as long as other drops

The mere mention of OTC eye drops probably makes you think of Visine. The company has been doing eye care for decades, and they offer several different formulations of drops designed to help with literally any eye problem you could possibly have (yes, even eye strain from too much screen time).

Because Visine products are pretty affordable, their multi-action eye drop is a winning budget pick for anyone who needs allergy relief stat without shelling out lots of cash. With both an antihistamine for itching and a decongestant for redness, they're the eye drops you should grab when allergies catch you by surprise and leave you roaming the pharmacy aisles in desperation.

You can use these drops up to four times per day as needed, but not for more than 72 hours in a row. These drops contain a decongestant which you could become dependent on if you use them consistently. Eye allergies that are seasonal or require longer symptom relief should be treated with a product that doesn’t contain any decongestant.

Active Ingredients: Naphazoline HCl 0.025%,  Pheniramine maleate 0.3% | Dosage: 1 or 2 drops in the affected eye(s) up to four times a day

Best for Redness: Opcon-A Antihistamine & Redness Reliever Eye Drops

Pros
  • Relieves itching and redness

  • Relief of pollen, grass, and pet dander allergies

  • Reduces redness

Cons
  • May cause redness rebound

  • May cause stinging and burning

If redness is your biggest problem, you’ll probably have to choose drops that contain a decongestant like naphazoline. This ingredient acts as a vasodilator, meaning it shrinks the inflamed blood vessels so they become less noticeable. 

Opcon-A is a good choice for redness caused by allergies because it also contains an antihistamine. It can do double-duty on your symptoms, reducing redness on the spot while also relieving itching due to grass, pollen, ragweed, and pets. 

You need to be careful, though, about overusing this product: as we mentioned before, your eyes can become accustomed to needing the decongestant, and more severe redness can result when you stop using it (which leads you to use the product again, thus continuing the vicious cycle). But intermittent use—up to four times per day for 72 hours at a time—is safe. 

Active Ingredients: Naphazoline HCI 0.02675%, Pheniramine maleate 0.315% | Dosage: 1 or 2 drops in the affected eye(s) up to 4 times daily

Best for Contact Lens Wearers: Refresh Optive Lubricant Eye Drops

Pros
  • Lubrication for dry eyes

  • Can be used while contacts are inserted

  • Relieves grittiness, blurriness, and itching

Cons
  • Won’t treat allergies

  • May need to be applied frequently

Good news for contact lens wearers who also suffer from allergies: you don’t have to choose between your contacts and freedom from allergy symptoms! Many allergy eye drops are safe to use with soft contacts. The trick, in this case, is keeping your eyes moisturized since the one-two punch of contact lenses and allergy irritation can do a number on your eyes’ overall moisture.

Active Ingredients: Carboxymethylcellulose sodium 0.5%, Glycerin 0.9% | Dosage: 1 or 2 drops in affected eye(s) as needed

Best for Dry Eyes: Systane Lubricant Eye Drops

Pros
  • Like artificial tears for dry, gritty eyes

  • Long-lasting moisturization of irritated eyes

  • Can be used as needed

Cons
  • Won’t treat allergies

  • Not for use with contacts

If dryness is your number one eye allergy symptom, you may want to start small—with an artificial tear product—and work your way up from there. You might not need to use antihistamine or decongestant products if lubrication solves your dryness problems.

When it comes to keeping your eyes nice and moist, Systane is a consistently good choice: with two different kinds of glycol, a humectant that attracts and binds water to the outer layer of a surface, these drops can be applied anytime your eyes need a serious refresher. 

While these drops work well for lubricating dry eyes caused by allergies, they can also be used to moisturize gritty or blurry eyes, eye strain or fatigue, and excessive tearing. They’re basically an all-purpose moisturizing cream for your eyes.

Active Ingredients: Polyethylene Glycol 400 0.4%, Propylene Glycol 0.3% | Dosage: 1 or 2 drops in affected eye(s) as needed

Best for Itchy Eyes: Pataday Once Daily Relief

Pros
  • One application needed per day

  • Contains antihistamine ingredient

  • Approved for use in kids over two years old

Cons
  • You can’t reapply if it wears off

  • May not work as well as ketotifen

If you need an antihistamine for your eye allergies, the last thing you want is one that irritates your eyes even more before it starts working. If you haven’t had success with ketotifen-based eye drops, you may want to try one containing olopatadine, like Pataday. Dr. Franzese says this ingredient typically doesn’t sting as much as some others.

Like Alaway, the antihistamine in Pataday targets itching and other allergic symptoms caused by grass, pollen, ragweed, and animals. It’s perfect for people who work all day around their allergy triggers, since it lasts 16 hours and only needs to be used once a day (although there is also a twice-daily formulation if you need the overnight protection). 

Active Ingredients: Olopatadine 0.2% | Dosage: 1 drop in affected eye(s) once daily

What Our Editors Say

"My allergies can get to the point where I am pretty much rendered incapable of not sneezing or rubbing my eyes every other minute (or at least it feels that way). Ragweed is my nemesis. My doctor recommended these eye drops and while I can't say that I get 100% relief on mega-pollen days, they definitely tamp down eye itchiness. I put them in first-thing in the morning and give it about 10 minutes before I put my contact lenses in. When the season is in full swing and I'm feeling severe symptoms, I use them every day vs. as needed to get ahead of things." — Kristin Fuerst, Senior Quality Assurance Editor, Quality Team, Verywell 

Best for Natural: Similasan Allergy Eye Relief Drops

Pros
  • No pharmaceutical ingredients

  • Multi-symptom allergy relief

  • Can be used as needed

Cons
  • May not be strong enough for severe allergies

  • Possibility of allergic reaction to natural ingredients

For anyone wanting to treat eye allergies naturally, without medications, preservatives, or other chemicals, Similasan offers an eye drop containing gentle, non-irritating ingredients. These allergy relief drops treat red, itchy, stinging, and watery eyes.

Because the ingredients are natural, you can use the drops as needed without worrying about side effects or rebound symptoms. They contain three primary botanical extracts that work to tackle your symptoms naturally. Similasan with contacts, but the company advises wearers to check with a doctor first before using this product.

Active Ingredients: None | Dosage: 2 to 3 drops in affected eye(s) as needed

Best for Watery Eyes: Zatidor Antihistamine Eye Drops

Pros
  • Works quickly and lasts a long time

  • Original prescription strength

  • Broad-spectrum relief for seasonal and environmental allergens

Cons
  • May sting or burn with application

  • Can’t be used while contacts are in eye

Are you sick of hearing about ketotifen yet? Sorry, but we’ve got one more for you. Lots of eye allergy sufferers swear by Zaditor, which contains this antihistamine powerhouse and relieves your symptoms for 12 hours with just one drop.

If you have watery eyes, you should be looking for a product with an antihistamine—they’re known for their ability to dry up mucus, which is why they are so good at stopping runny noses and post-nasal drip. In watery eyes, an antihistamine can reduce all those excess tears caused by environmental allergens. 

Zaditor can help with everything from seasonal pollen to dry air in office buildings, providing both immediate and long-lasting relief. They can be used indefinitely without any rebound effect and are safe for use with contacts, too (per the directions on the packaging). 

Active Ingredients: Ketotifen 0.025% | Dosage: 1 drop in affected eye(s) twice per day or every 8-12 hours

Final Verdict

If you’re new to eye allergies, starting with an antihistamine drop, like Alaway (view at Amazon), is a smart choice. That may be all you need to treat the worst of your symptoms. If you find you need more relief, you can advance to a mast cell stabilizing drop, like Zatidor (view at Amazon). If you’re concerned about using a medication, choose a drop with natural ingredients like Similasan (view at CVS) or stick with a glycol-based lubricant such as Systane (view at Amazon). In general, it’s smart to avoid redness-relieving drops.

Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with an allergist, though, if you’re not getting the symptom relief you need: it’s possible you could be dealing with something other than allergies, or need help identifying your triggers.

What to Look for in Eye Drops for Allergies

Ingredients

There are two main kinds of ingredients in eye drops that can reduce your allergic reaction to seasonal or environmental triggers: mast cell stabilizers and antihistamines. While eye drops that include lubricating ingredients, like the polyethylene glycol found in artificial tears, may be helpful in soothing irritation, they don’t actually stop the histamine response at the root of your problems.

The ingredient that will work best for you varies from person to person, so be ready for a little trial and error.

“If you have tried an antihistamine eye drop and not found relief, you may find relief with a mast cell stabilizer,” says Kathleen Dass, MD, Michigan-based allergist and immunologist. “In rare circumstances, we use both to treat because they work differently.”

You might think that more ingredients equals more kinds of relief, but that’s not necessarily the case. Many eye drops, especially those that reduce redness, include vasoconstrictors in the form of decongestants, and these aren’t safe for long-term use.

“It's okay to use these drops rarely if you need to—however they will not provide long-term allergy relief [and can also] create rebound redness,” explains Dr. Dass.

Target Symptoms

Because eye drops often focus on relieving a single symptom of allergies, you’ll have to experiment a little when it comes to finding a product that works for you. If you only have one symptom, like dryness, you don’t need a multi-action drop. On the other hand, if your eyes are itchy, red, and watery, that might be your best bet.

As with any other medication, you can’t properly treat your symptoms if you don’t know what they are. Dr. Dass says it's important to confirm that you’re definitely dealing with eye allergies, not a similar problem like dry eyes or blepharitis, since those conditions are treated differently. You may need to meet with an allergist to hone in on your individual symptoms and, preferably, figure out your triggers; while eye drops can treat symptoms, the only way to prevent symptoms entirely is to avoid your triggers.

Dosage

Most drops will require you to use them once or twice per day. You’ll get the same amount of medication over a 24-hour period, but one way may end up being more preferable to you than the other.

For example, if you find the effects of the drops wearing off after 10 hours but you’re using a once-daily drop, you’ll be left with symptoms for a long time before you can take another dose. But if you wear contact lenses, it could be a total hassle to remove your contacts twice a day for administering drops, warns Dr. Dass. Make sure you think about your schedule and ability to use the drops before choosing between 12- and 24-hour formulations.

Use with Contact Lenses

Speaking of contacts, it’s important to make sure the eye drops are safe for use with your lenses

“Most eye drop instructions recommend waiting 10 to 15 minutes before putting in your contacts,” says Dr. Dass, who emphasizes the importance of reading the instructions that come with your brand of eye drops (you want the medication to be fully absorbed before you put your lenses in, or they can interfere with the effectiveness of the medication).

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I use allergy eye drops for pink eye?

    It depends on what’s causing your pink eye; conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, a virus, or bacteria, says Yuna Rapoport, M.D., director of Manhattan Eye in New York City, so if your pink eye has been caused by allergies then these types of drops would be useful. If a virus or bacteria is the culprit, allergy drops won’t help.


    So how do you know if your pink eye is from allergies? Dr. Rapoport says if your symptoms are chronic (i.e. they last over a long period of time, not suddenly), if there is no yellow mucus that comes out, and if ophthalmologist sees "papillae" or bumps on the inside of the eyelid during an eye exam.

  • Do eye drops for allergies help with red eye?

    Just like with pink eye, the cause for your red eye symptoms matters: if pollen or animal dander (or all that scratching you're doing because of pollen or pet dander) has made your eyes red and irritated, then allergy eye drops may help. 


    But Dr. Rapoport stresses that other eye conditions like dry eye, blepharitis, and infection can also cause red eye—and allergy eye drops will not relieve your red eye in those cases.

  • Can I develop a dependency on eye drops?

    If the eye drops contain certain ingredients, you can develop a dependency. The main ingredient to be extremely mindful of is Naphazoline HCI; this is a decongestant ingredient which shrinks the blood vessels in your eye to make them appear less visibly red, but it will cause a rebound effect if used too often.


    In other words, the more you use redness relieving eye drops, the redder your eyes will become—and the more you’ll feel like you need to use a redness reliever, kicking off a vicious cycle where you become dependent. 


    How can you avoid this? By using redness relieving drops with decongestant ingredients sparingly.


    “Those drops should not be used more than just every so often for a special occasion or picture,” explains Dr. Rapoport.

What the Experts Say

“Lubricating drops, or artificial tears, will treat dry eye, which cause many of the same symptoms that allergic conjunctivitis causes, such as burning, itching, foreign body sensation.” 

Yuna Rapoport, M.D.

Why Trust Verywell Health?

Sarah Bradley has been writing health content since 2017—everything from product roundups and illness FAQs to nutrition explainers and the dish on diet trends. She knows how important it is to receive trustworthy and expert-approved advice about over-the-counter products that manage everyday health conditions, from GI issues and allergies to chronic headaches and joint pain.

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  1. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Eye Allergy.