Best Allergy Medication for Itchy Eyes

By Alicia Wooldridge, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
August 4, 2022

Red, itchy eyes are unsightly and uncomfortable.

If you’re suffering from allergic conjunctivitis (the medical term for highly irritated red and itchy eyes), you want quick relief.

And with so many allergy medications available, it’s hard to know what’s going to work best. 

In this article, I’ll discuss the different options to relieve itchy eyes and identify the best medications for specific situations.

I’ll also explain what to look for in medication for itchy eyes and when to see a medical provider for care.

Relief for Itchy Eyes

Both oral antihistamine medications and eye drops can ease allergy symptoms quickly.

Antihistamine pills

Antihistamines can provide relief for all kinds of allergy symptoms, including itchy eyes.

Common antihistamines that can be effective include:

  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • Desloratadine (Clarinex)
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra)
  • Levocetirizine (Xyzal)
  • Loratadine (Claritin)

Eye drops

If itchy eyes are your only symptom and you don’t want to take an oral antihistamine, eye drops may help. 

Prescription eye drops that can address histamine or mast cell problems include:

  • Azelastine (Astelin, Optivar)
  • Alocril

Over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops include:

  • Ketotifen
  • Alaway
  • Zaditor
  • Olopatadine (Pataday, Patadol)
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Best Allergy Medication for Itchy Eyes

When it comes to the best allergy medication for itchy eyes, most providers recommend eye drops as the most effective option.

Itchy eyes

If itchy eyes are your primary concern, the best over-the-counter choice is ALCON Pataday Once Daily Relief.

  • The active ingredient is olopatadine, an antihistamine.
  • Effects last for 16 hours.
  • It works for seasonal allergies (grass, pollen, ragweed) and pet dander.
  • It’s safe to use in adults and children over age 2.
  • It’s a good option for people who don’t respond to the active ingredient ketotifen.
  • You only apply once per day.
  • It stings less than other options.

Redness

If your eyes are red, the best eye drops are Bausch & Lomb Opcon-A Allergy Eyes Drops.

  • The active ingredients are naphazoline hydrochloride and pheniramine maleate, a decongestant and an antihistamine.
  • It provides short-term relief for itching and redness.
  • It works for allergies caused by pollen, grass, and pet dander.
  • It can be used up to four times per day for 72 hours.
  • It may cause stinging on application.
  • Overuse can lead to rebound redness and dependence on the decongestant.

Contact lens users

Not all eye drops are safe to use if you wear contact lenses. 

The best eye drops for people who wear contacts are Refresh Optive Lubricant Eye Drops.

  • The active ingredients are carboxymethylcellulose sodium and glycerin, two types of lubricants.
  • It does not contain an antihistamine.
  • It provides effective lubrication for dry-eye symptoms.
  • It helps relieve itching and blurred vision.
  • It can be applied as frequently as needed.

Natural choice

If you are looking for eye drops with natural ingredients that resolve itchy eye symptoms, try Similasan Allergy Eye Relief Drops.

  • It contains no pharmaceutical ingredients or preservatives.
  • The active ingredients are botanical extracts.
  • It does not contain an antihistamine, so it may not provide strong relief.
  • It helps treat red, itchy, stinging, or watery eyes.
  • It can be used as often as needed.
  • Ask a medical provider before using if you wear contact lenses.

Overall for allergies

Bausch & Lomb Alaway Antihistamine Eye Drops are considered the best overall treatment for lasting relief from itchy eyes.

  • The active ingredient is ketotifen, an effective antihistamine.
  • One drop provides 12 hours of relief.
  • Prescription-strength drops are available for faster relief.
  • It cannot be used with contact lenses.

What to Look for in Medication for Itchy Eyes

When comparing medications to treat itchy eyes, consider the following.

Ingredients

Although people may respond differently to individual products and active ingredients, eye drops that treat allergies effectively typically contain antihistamines or mast cell stabilizers. 

Instead of masking symptoms, these types of medicines help to address the cause of allergic reactions, which makes them more effective. 

Eye drops that contain only lubricants may provide short-term relief but typically need to be applied more often.

Target symptoms

Eye drops typically target symptoms like:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Watery eyes
  • Dryness

While most eye drops treat some level of overlapping symptoms, some work better for specific problems. 

So choose an eye drop that is most effective for your most problematic symptoms.

If you are not sure which symptoms are the most problematic, consult a medical provider or see an optometrist or ophthalmologist for a diagnosis.

Dosage

Most eye drops contain dosages that are meant to be taken 1-2 times per day. 

However, follow the instructions that come with the eye drops.

Note that some drops, such as those that contain decongestants, are only safe to be used short-term, meaning no more than a few days at a time.

Use with contact lenses

If you wear contact lenses, check whether an eye drop product can be used while your lenses are in. 

Many antihistamine eye drops are not meant to be used with contact lenses because they can lead to dry eye symptoms. 

And if you wear contact lenses with dry eyes, you can risk further worsening the dryness or scratching your cornea.

Price

Eye drops vary in price depending on the specific product, active ingredient, and retailer you purchase it from.

Some products are available as store-brand generics, which can save a significant amount of money, especially if you rely on eye drops to get you through an entire allergy season.

Prescription eye drops also vary in price based on insurance coverage and whether a generic is available.

When to Seek Medical Attention for Itchy Eyes

If you have short-term problems with itchy eyes and also experience seasonal allergies, you likely don’t need medical attention unless OTC remedies do not help. 

However, see a provider if: 

  • Your symptoms are severe or make it hard to function
  • Your symptoms worsen or do not improve with home care or over-the-counter allergy medicines or eye drops
  • You notice mucus coming from your eyes

You can develop an eye infection in addition to eye allergy symptoms. 

Common eye infections that can cause red or itchy eyes include viral or bacterial conjunctivitis and blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids).

If you develop any of the following symptoms, call 911 or get emergency medical care:

Have itchy eyes? Chat with a medical provider through K Health.
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How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a healthcare provider in minutes. 

K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make your eyes stop itching from allergies?
Allergies lead to itchy eyes because of histamine or mast cell reactions. These increase in response to immune activation from exposure to allergens like pollen, grass, dust, or pet dander. Taking oral antihistamines or using antihistamine eye drops are the fastest way to stop itching from allergies.
Is Benadryl or Claritin better for itchy eyes?
Benadryl and Claritin are both antihistamines, but Claritin is likely more effective for itchy eyes. It also causes less drowsy effects and only needs to be taken once per day, whereas Benadryl needs to be taken every 4-6 hours to manage allergy symptoms.
Does Zyrtec help with itchy eyes?
Zyrtec is an antihistamine that can help to alleviate allergy symptoms like itchy eyes. It is not fast-acting, but it can start relieving symptoms within an hour and continue working for 24 hours.
How do you get rid of itchy eyes instantly?
For the fastest relief of itchy eyes, use antihistamine eye drops such as Ketotifen, Alaway, or Zaditor.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Alicia Wooldridge, MD

Dr. Alicia Wooldridge is a board certified Family Medicine physician with over a decade of experience.

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