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I Have Eye Allergies. Can I Just Use an Over-the-Counter Eye Drop?


Updated June 10, 2014

Question: I Have Eye Allergies. Can I Just Use an Over-the-Counter Eye Drop?
Answer: Certain kinds of over-the-counter eye drops can only be used for short periods of time. Most over-the-counter allergy eye drops contain topical decongestants, like those found in Visine (naphazoline), which should only be used for a few days at a time. When topical decongestants are used long-term, a medical condition called conjunctivitis medicamentosa can develop. Symptoms may include an increase in eye redness and irritation, with more dependence on the eye drop for relief.

Zaditor/Alaway (ketotifen), a topical antihistamine and mast cell stabilizer eye drop, is now available over-the-counter for the treatment of eye allergies. This medication can be used long-term without the potential side effect of conjunctivitis medicamentosa.

Find out more about the diagnosis and treatment of eye allergies.


Ono SJ, Abelson MB. Allergic conjunctivitis: Update on pathophysiology and prospects for future treatment. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005; 115:118-22.

Bielory L. Allergic and Immunologic Disorders of the Eye. Part II: Ocular Allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2000; 106:1019-32.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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  6. Over-The-Counter Eye Drops and Allergies

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