Visine Drops for Eye Allergies

If allergies make your eyes dry and itchy, you may be tempted to reach for Visine Allergy Eye Relief Multi-Action Antihistamine and Redness Reliever Drops. The product is commonly known as Visine-A.

If you do use this product, home in on its promise to "provide temporary relief from red, itchy, allergy eyes." The key word is "temporary," meaning that Visine-A is not meant to be used for longer than several days at a time. 

Woman on a white background scratching the corner of her eye
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This article describes the active ingredients in Visine-A and what they do. It also explains how to use the drops and some of the possible side effects.

How Visine-A Works

Visine-A, an over-the-counter product, treats red and itchy eyes associated with allergies caused by pollen, grass, ragweed, animal hair, and dander. It does this with two active ingredients: a decongestant and an antihistamine.

Specifically, Visine-A contains:

  • Naphazoline: This decongestant works by tightening blood vessels in the eye, which reduces redness.
  • Pheniramine maleate: This antihistamine reduces itchiness by inhibiting the chemicals (histamines) the body produces in response to allergens.

These ingredients can provide short-term relief for redness and itching. But beyond two or three days, these ingredients can cause side effects.

Other products contain tetrahydrozoline, which is sold as (regular) Visine. It also reduces eye redness by narrowing swollen blood vessels.

Never Drink Visine

Never drink any type of Visine. It can be dangerous and even fatal. Symptoms of a tetrahydrozoline overdose include drowsiness, slow breathing or an absence of breathing, slow heartbeat, hypothermia (low body temperature) and possibly even coma. Seek immediate medical treatment if you, a child, or a pet has ingested liquid eye drops.

Side Effects

An important—and perhaps surprising—effect of Visine-A is that using it for more than two or three days in a row can actually set off the very symptoms it worked to relieve to come back.

This is known as a "rebound redness" effect. The naphazoline in the drops can cause eye swelling, redness, and irritation to worsen. The pheniramine maleate can make eyes overly dry. As a result, itching and irritation may get worse.

In addition, the antihistamine may cause sleepiness, dizziness, lack of coordination, or excitability.

Visine-A may temporarily increase pupil size, which can cause increased light
sensitivity. You may also experience a brief tingling sensation after using the drops.

How to Use

Visine-A should not be used for more than three days in a row to avoid rebound symptoms.

If you use it, apply the recommended number of drops in the affected eye up to four times a day. Be sure to remove your contact lenses before using Visine-A. Here's how to use the drops:

  • Wash and dry your hands.
  • Tilt your head back and look up.
  • Gently pull down on the lower eyelid until you have formed a pocket.
  • Hold the dropper directly over your eye and squeeze until the recommended number of drops fall into the pocket.
  • Keep your eye closed for at least 1 minute.
  • Press lightly on your tear duct (the corner of your eye) with your finger. This will keep the medication in your eye.

Wait about 15 minutes before putting your contact lenses back in.

Cautions

Due to the potential for light sensitivity with use, be cautious if using Visine-A before driving or performing tasks that require clear vision.

Before using the drops, check with your healthcare provider first if you have:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Problems urinating

People who have narrow-angle glaucoma (when the iris bows forward) should not use decongestant drops. They could develop angle-closure glaucoma, a serious medical emergency.

Seek emergency treatment immediately if you suddenly experience blurry vision, intense eye pain, red eye, or nausea.

Avoid Overuse

When topical decongestant eye drops such as Visine are used regularly, a physical dependence on the eye drops can develop. At the same time, the benefits dwindle the longer the drops are used.

In response to greater redness and swelling, some people use the eye drops more often. To stop this vicious cycle, use cold compresses or preservative-free, lubricating eye drops (artificial tears). Your eyes should improve within days.

Dependence Is A Condition

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

Effective Options for Eye Allergy Symptom Relief

There are other choices for OTC eye drops for the treatment of eye allergies, including ketotifen, which is a topical antihistamine and mast-cell-stabilizing eye drop. Such a stabilizer prevents the release of histamines, which contribute to allergies.

Ketotifen is marketed under the brands Zaditor, Alaway, Claritin Eye, Zyrtec Eye, and Visine All-Day Eye Itch Relief. It is also available in generic versions.

Summary

Visine Allergy Eye Relief Multi-Action Antihistamine and Redness Reliever Drops is commonly known as Visine-A. It contains two active ingredients: Naphazoline, a decongestant that reduces redness, and pheniramine maleate, an antihistamine that relieves itchiness. Visine-A should be used for no more than two or three days in a row. Otherwise, it may set off the very symptoms it worked to relieve in the first place. This is known as a rebound effect. If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, or trouble urinating, check with your healthcare provider before using Visine-A.

A Word From Verywell

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

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

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8 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. VISINE® Allergy Eye Relief Multi-Action Antihistamine and Redness Reliever Eye Drops. Visine.com. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

  2. National Library of Medicine. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride.

  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Red-eye drops: Poisonous to drink, safe if used correctly.

  4. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Redness-relieving eye drops.

  5. Eye Allergy. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

  6. National Institutes of Health. National Eye Institute. How to put in eye drops.

  7. National Institutes of Health. National Eye Institute. Types of glaucoma.

  8. Ketotifen. Drug Information Portal. U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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