Visine Drops for Eye Allergies

Do you suffer from dry, itchy eyes because of your allergies? If so, you may be tempted to reach for Visine-A—now known as Visine Allergy Eye Relief Multi-Action.

This medication is marketed as helping to relieve symptoms associated with allergies, such as bloodshot and itchy eyes. However, while Visine may help for the temporary relief of eye discomfort due to allergies, it is not a good choice for medium- or long-term use.

Below, you’ll find out what this medication can safely do, and why it’s not the best choice for chronic eye symptoms associated with allergies.

Visine and many other over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops are not good choices for the treatment of eye allergies. Many OTC eye drops contain topical decongestants, such as naphazoline and tetrahydrozoline, which act to decrease redness of the eyes. Some OTC eye drops combine topical decongestants and topical antihistamines, such as those found in Visine-A and Opcon-A.

While these various eye drops are effective for the short-term relief of eye redness, as well as eye itching when the topical antihistamine is added, the long-term use of topical decongestants can lead to side effects.

How Visine-A Works

Visine Allergy treats the red and itchy eyes associated with allergies via two active ingredients: a decongestant and an antihistamine.

Specifically, Visine’s allergy eye drop, available over the counter, contains naphazoline, a decongestant Visine calls a “redness reliever,” and pheniramine maleate, an antihistamine. The decongestant works by constricting blood vessels in the eye, which reduces redness. The antihistamine, meanwhile, reduces itchiness by inhibiting the chemicals (called histamines) the body produces in response to allergens.

Woman on a white background scratching the corner of her eye
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Side Effects

The decongestant and antihistamine found in Visine Allergy can both lead to rebound effects. The decongestant, naphazoline, can actually increase the symptoms it initially alleviated when used for too long. As a result, if used for more than two or three days, it may worsen eye swelling, redness, and irritation.

Pheniramine maleate is the antihistamine in Visine Allergy. It too can worsen symptoms it initially helps if used for more than a short period of time. It can make eyes overly dry and, consequently, worsen eye allergy itching and irritation. In addition, some antihistamines may cause sedation, excitability, dizziness, or lack of coordination.

How to Use

Visine Allergy should not be used for more than three days to avoid rebound symptoms that may become worse than those you started with.

If you use it, apply 1-2 drops in each affected eye up to four times a day. Be sure to remove contact lenses before using Visine Allergy.

This product may temporarily increase pupil size, which can cause increased light sensitivity, so also be cautious if using it before driving or performing tasks that require clear vision.

Never ingest Visine—it is poisonous and can be fatal even in small doses. Always keep it in a safe place where children cannot access it.

Check with your doctor if you have cardiac conditions, such as heart disease, or high blood pressure, before using Visine Allergy. Also check with your health care practitioner before using these eye drops if you have narrow-angle glaucoma or problems urinating.

Avoid Overuse

When topical decongestant eye drops such as Visine are used regularly, physical dependence on the eye drop can develop. The benefit of the eye drop lasts for less and less time with continued use, and the redness and swelling of the eye may actually get worse as the medicine wears off.

This results in the need to use the eye drops multiple times per day to keep eye redness under control.

The dependence on topical decongestant eye drops is called conjunctivitis medicamentosa.

This condition gets better several days to weeks after the topical decongestant eye drops are stopped and may require the use of other therapies, such as cold compresses, lubricant or artificial tear drops, and even short-term treatment with topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or steroid eye drops.

Effective Options for Eye Allergy Symptom Relief

There are better choices for OTC eye drops for the treatment of eye allergies, including ketotifen, which is a topical antihistamine and mast-cell-stabilizing eye drop. Ketotifen is marketed under the brands Zaditor, Alaway, Claritin Eye, Zyrtec Eye, and Visine All-Day Eye Itch Relief, as well as in generic versions.

A Word From Verywell

While Visine and other manufacturers market eye drops as being effective for the short-term relief of allergies, the key word here is short-term. Use these products for more than a few days, and you may find yourself with symptoms that are worse than when you started.

If you find yourself using this medication for more than a day or two each month, consult your eye doctor to find safer options.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Drug warnings. Tetrahydrozoline. Pubchem. U.S. National Library of Medicine. May 31, 2019.

  2. VISINE® Allergy Eye Relief Multi-Action Antihistamine and Redness Reliever Eye Drops. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. Site updated November 21, 2016.

  3. Eye Allergy. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2021.

  4. Red-Eye Drops: Poisonous to Drink, Safe If Used Correctly. Jennifer Churchill and Ari Soglin. American Academy of Ophthalmology. February 22, 2021.

  5. Ketotifen. Drug Information Portal. U.S. National Library of Medicine. May 2021.

Additional Reading
  • Spector SL, Raizman MB. Conjunctivitis Medicamentosa. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1994 Jul;94(1):134-6.