What causes itchy eyes in winter?

Health Advisor
Ask Felicity

01 November 2017

Why do your eyes itch more in winter?

You’ve made it through summer and your eyes have overcome hayfever, UV radiation and allergic rhinitis. Winter should surely offer some relief – but then why are your eyes still tearing up and itching? It’s a dilemma that a surprising amount of you face as the temperature starts to cool down but don’t worry, there is an explanation.

1. Cold air: Naturally, in winter it’s expected that the temperature will plummet and this onset of cold, dry air can be very irritating for your eyes since, unlike your hands, they will constantly be exposed. As the cold air deprives them of moisture, it then makes it difficult for your eyes to produce the proper amount of tears, leading to some irritation and itchiness, made worse by the urge to rub your eyes. 

2. Central heating: In the same way that air conditioning and cold air pull all the moisture from your eyes, central heating can also play a role in this process. The chances are that you rely on your heating system to keep you warm and cosy whilst it hails and snows outside, however this could be behind your symptoms. Hot, dry air can have the same effect as cold air, making your eyes more prone to irritation.

3. UV radiation: UV radiation…as in sunburn…in winter? If you live somewhere like the UK, your ‘summer weather’ probably wasn’t too impressive, so there’s little doubt that winter will be miserable. Yet, it’s still possible for the sun to damage your eyes when it does appear, only this time you may be less inclined to wear your sunglasses!

4. Dehydration: Mulled wine and office parties – winter definitely tries to persuade you to indulge in all those things you’d otherwise avoid! However, the festive period can take a toll, not just on your waistline but also on your fluid intake. Hot chocolate, fizzy drinks and alcohol do not count as fluids and often you risk becoming dehydrated during this period which is bad news for your eyes and your body as a whole.

5. Winter allergies: As nice as it may be to imagine, allergens don’t hibernate in winter and sometimes arguably, you are even more exposed to irritants. Pet dander, dust and mould spores all live in your home and, especially if the weather is miserable, you will be more inclined to spent time indoors than outside meaning you will be more exposed to these allergens.

What can I do to help my eyes?

Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can help your eyes during this trying period, provided you are willing to adjust certain aspects of your diet and lifestyle. Below, I’ve listed a few of my personal suggestions to point you in the right direction.

Invest in a humidifier

Whether it snows or showers, the weather is beyond your control. What isn’t beyond your control though is your environment indoors. I’ve already mentioned how central heating can be agitating for your eyes, but if you had to choose between itchy eyes and hypothermia, the chances are you’d tolerate some discomfort for warmth.

That’s why I’d recommend investing in a humidifier. These devices can help to increase the moisture in the air, counteracting some of the drying effects of central heating and giving your eyes some relief both from the hot air indoors and the cold air outside. They’re surprisingly affordable and you can even purchase mobile humidifiers that you can take with you if you’re visiting someone else’s home or working in an office.

Drink plenty of fluids

It might seem pretty basic but avoiding dehydration should always be a top priority. During the festive period you’ll probably want to indulge and socialise a bit more but it’s important to keep water top of mind too!

Alcohol can dehydrate you very quickly so if you are going out, I would recommend ordering water for the table. For every alcohol drink you have, try to match with a glass of water. Not only will this help to keep you hydrated, it may even reduce some of those horrible hangover symptoms the following day!

Protect your eyes

I can understand that sunglasses may seem a few months out of fashion by the time you get to December or January, but surprisingly, UV radiation can be an even bigger problem in winter than in summer.

This is largely because UV radiation can attack your eyes from above and below as snow is the perfect reflective surface so it might not be right to ditch those sunglasses just yet!1 If you’re embarking on a skiing trip, make sure you remember your protective goggles!


Think about your environment

A humidifier can be a good step towards improving your indoor environment but, given the potency of winter allergies, it may be worthwhile examining other aspects of your home. For example, owning a real Christmas tree can be an attractive option but you might be better settling for an artificial one as real Christmas trees can sometimes collect mould!

Interestingly, some people actually advise buying a dehumidifier to deal with this particular pest but I think that cleanliness is more important. Washing your sheets regularly and throwing out any materials that collect mould, including carpets, showers curtains and towels, should help to maintain a healthy indoor environment.

When it comes to dust, make sure you wash those Christmas ornaments before hanging them up – chances are they’ve been sitting unused in your attic collecting dust for 11 months! Ban your pets from your bedroom and use allergy-proof covers on your bed – this might sound like a small step but it can definitely make a big difference!

Keep your eyes moisturised

Your eyes are definitely more at risk of becoming dry and itchy during the winter months, so I’d take steps to keep them hydrated by investing in some nourishing and hydrating eye drops. I’d personally recommend our Eye Drops which have been specifically formulated for dry, irritated and tired eyes.

Prepared using a blend of hyaluronic acid and Euphrasia, this formula gently works to keep your eyes lubricated and is even suitable for children over the age of 3! Perfect for wearing under your contact lenses, you can take this product in addition to our Vision Complex.

An internal supplement that contains an assortment of eye-boosting nutrients, including zinc, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, Vision Complex can help to maintain healthy vision. A combination of these two products should go a long way towards keeping your eyes hydrated and nourished during the winter months!

“Absolutely essential for tired and dry computer eyes.”

Vision Complex – for healthy eyes

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