The 9 Best Eye Drops for Allergies of 2020

Relieve itchy eyes with these top picks

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First Look

Best Overall: Alaway Antihistamine Eye Drops at Amazon

"You get 12 hours of eye allergy relief with these antihistamine drops, which contain ketotifen for maximum protection against environmental allergens like grass, pollen, and pet dander."

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

"Need a quick allergy fix that doesn’t break the bank? This all-purpose eye drop treats multiple symptoms for a cheaper-than-average cost."

Best for Redness: Opcon-A Antihistamine & Redness Reliever Eye 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 Long Lasting 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 but also lasts 24 hours, so you can use it and get back to your day."

Best for Kids: Alaway Children's Antihistamine Eye Drops at Amazon

"Get the antihistamine protection of Alaway drops in a safe formula for kids who also suffer from dry, itchy, watery eyes during allergy season."

Best for Natural: Similasan Allergy Eye Relief Drops at Amazon

"With an antihistamine and decongestant, these drops 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 percent of the time and nasal steroid sprays, like fluticasone, will help 60 percent 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.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Alaway Antihistamine Eye Drops

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. Reviewers consistently rate these drops highly, raving over their effectiveness in outdoor settings and with seasonal, pollen-based allergies in particular.

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

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.

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

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. 

Best for Contact Lens Wearers: Refresh Optive Lubricant Eye Drops

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.

Best for Dry Eyes: Systane Long Lasting Lubricant Eye Drops

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.

Best for Itchy Eyes: Pataday Once Daily Relief

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). 

It probably shouldn’t be your first line of defense: reviews tend to be split on the product’s effectiveness, making it a “love it or hate it” kind of eye drop. But if you’ve been disappointed by ketotifen products in the past, Pataday might finally give you the OTC relief you need.

Best for Kids: Alaway Children's Antihistamine Eye Drops

The only thing worse than suffering from sore, itchy eyes during allergy season is watching your child suffer, too.

It’s tough for kids to stop scratching and rubbing their eyes when they’re irritated, which means they’re at a higher risk of corneal abrasions and eye infections like conjunctivitis thanks to their allergies.

If this describes your kid to a T, they probably need an antihistamine eye drop—and Alaway’s children formula provides relief in a totally kid-friendly dose. The main ingredient is the same (ketotifen), but there’s a slightly lower amount in the children’s version. It’s safe for kids over the age of 3 to use, starts working right away, and should last 12 hours.

Best for Natural: Similasan Allergy Eye Relief Drops

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.

In general, reviewers rate this natural product as highly as many other medication-based drops, though they may not work for everyone. It’s probably safe to use Similasan with contacts, but the company advises wearers to check with a doctor first before using this product.

Best for Watery Eyes: Zatidor Antihistamine Eye Drops

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. 

Reviewers claim the Zaditor drops help them 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). 

Final Verdict

Choose an OTC product containing ketotifen, like Zatidor or Alaway, for general or multi-symptom allergy protection. If you’re concerned about using medication, choose a drop with natural ingredients like Similasan or stick with a glycol-based lubricant such as Systane.

What to Look For in Eye Drops for Allergies

Ingredients: Different products include different ingredients—from medications to preservatives—so you should really turn the package over and read the label before you buy it. Many antihistamine drops can be used long-term, but decongestant drops can cause a rebound effect with overuse. And if you want a medication-free option, you’ll need to choose drops with only saline in them (though Dr. Franzese says these have to be reapplied frequently).

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.

Effectiveness: If you try a few different OTC eye drops and none seem to help, don’t just keep using them and suffering through allergy season. OTC eye drops are a good place to start, but there are prescription options available if those don’t work. If you’re struggling to find relief or experiencing other symptoms, like blurry vision, make sure you schedule an exam with an eye doctor for next steps.

Why Trust Verywell

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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Article Sources
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