How do you treat eye allergies?

Eye allergies happen when your body over-reacts to a substance it labels as harmful.

For example: What harm could the droppings of dust mites that live in furniture, bedding, clothing, and carpets do to the human body? The mites themselves are microscopic. Yet their tiny droppings are one of the most potent allergenic substances we know.

People who are allergic to dust mites, pollen, animal dander, and other irritants suffer from sneezing, wheezing, itchy, watering eyes and over-production of mucus. Eyes swell, noses run continuously, and the skin may break out in itchy welts (hives). These reactions are caused by the release of inflammatory substances in the body in response to allergens.

Allergic eyes are itchy, watery, and often swollen. The overflow of water from the lacrimal glands dilutes the other components necessary to keep your eyes moist, and so allergic eyes are usually also dry at times. Eye doctors can distinguish simple dry eye from eye allergy because of a distinctive ''cobblestone' pattern seen inside the eyelids in those with eye allergies. Contact lens wearers are particularly vulnerable to eye allergy.

Drops prescribed to treat allergic eyes contain antihistamines, decongestants, or cortisone. They reduce inflammation but treat only the symptom, not the source of the problem, and they can make dry eyes worse. Continual use of any of them can damage the eyes.

To better control eye allergies at their source, have yourself tested so that you know which allergens to avoid most carefully. If you are most allergic to dust mite droppings, you can buy mite-proof pillow and bed casings, an air filtration system, and a top-quality vacuum cleaner. Getting rid of carpeting and extra dust-collecting objects is also important if you have a dust mite allergy.

If you are allergic to pollens, keep your windows closed and use an air-conditioner during the allergy season. Know the hours during which the pollens and mould: you are most sensitive to are heaviest in outdoor air Stay indoors during those hours. Usually the worst times are between the hours of 5 and 10 A.M. If you do go out, wear wraparound sun goggles to keep out dust and pollen.

To control allergic reactions, try the bioflavonoid quercetin, 500 mg twice a day. it's a natural histamine blocker, so it works much like those antihistamine drugs but without the side effects. Take it with vitamin C, one of nature's most potent anti-inflammatory agents. We recommend that you take 2-3 g (2,000-3,000 mg) of vitamin C daily anyway, but you may want to try taking 1,000 mg four times a day if you have allergies.

Some companies make products that combine quercetin with vitamin C. Echinacea, an herb that fortifies the immune system, is available in a tincture (liquid) form. This can be added to your allergy controlb regimen.