Tears in my eye

  • Health
  • Sunday, 16 Mar 2003

A potpourri of common ailments and possible herbal remedies 

IN the past few months, my right eye has been tearing excessively. I have to blink hard to clear the tears or use a handkerchief to wipe them away. What is the cause of the problem? 

Excessive tears may be due to several causes, ranging from infection to allergy. Even bright sunlight may cause some people to tear. The tears are often an irritant as they run down the cheeks, and may even leave red marks. This is usually a sign that they contain high levels of histamine and are usually related to an allergy. 

You should discuss the matter with your doctor or eye specialist, who will be able to determine the cause and recommend an antibiotic or anti-allergic eye drops as treatment.  

If you suffer from conditions such as sinusitis or regular infections in the eye, or have suffered damage to the face or nose, the symptoms you noted could be related to that. 


My son is 10 years old, weighs 22kg and is 130cm tall. He is very thin but has a good appetite, especially since taking a appetite increaser one year ago. His health has also improved.  

Lately, however, he has developed itchy rashes on the joints of his legs and hands (probably due to dryness as he occasionally sleeps in an air-conditioned room). Applying baby lotion reduces the itch but his skin is now very rough. 

He also gets mouth and throat ulcers and is prone to coughs and colds. He was diagnosed with sinusitis at the age of five but has since recovered. Are there vitamin supplements I can give him to help build his resistance? 

It is likely that your son has developed an allergy that is affecting his immune system. That explains the occurrence of mouth and throat ulcers and the itchiness and rashes. The allergy may also interfere with his ability to absorb the nutrients from his diet.  

He should continue taking an appetite increaser. At the same time, give him three capsules of 1000mg evening primrose oil daily for a month and see if this helps with the rashes and itchiness. If there is no improvement, you should bring him to a doctor, since this is an important growth period for children. 


My husband has no qualms about drinking ants in his water and gulps them down with no concern for his health. He falls ill occasionally. Could this be due to the side-effects of swallowing ants? Will grape seed help? 

I have little experience regarding the nutritional effects of drinking ants. But unless they are poisonous fire ants, they will not do your husband much harm. However, most ants contain small amounts of formic acid, and most of us would be better off without it. The occasional illness is to be expected amongst men who don’t take too much care of themselves. 

You may have to step in to make sure your husband looks after himself by making sure his diet is well-balanced and contains plenty of good quality protein and complex carbohydrates, together with a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement. Grape seed is a powerful antioxidant but it is not a preventive for eating the occasional ant. 


I am in my 20s and have eye bags despite sleeping seven to eight hours a day. Nightly application of a cream touted as helpful has not worked. I am also taking vitamin E. 

The dark rings under the eyes, which you refer to as eye bags, may be a sign of an allergy. If you suffer from dry skin, rashes and itchiness, you may have an allergy to either one of the three F’s – food, fabric or fur. Whilst taking an extra 100mg of vitamin C daily may help (since vitamin C is a powerful anti-allergic), you should check with your doctor if you see no improvement after a month. 


My 12-year-old son always wakes up with a running nose, which is occasionally accompanied by sneezes. Are there any vitamins or supplements that he can take? 

A running nose and sneezing is usually caused by some form of allergy. While extra vitamin C and a good multivitamin formula should help, he may need some anti-allergic medicine, such as one of the newer anti-histamines. 

Or, if you can find the cause of his allergy and remove it, this may solve the problem. Many children suffer from allergies caused by fibre, fur or food (usually egg, wheat, milk and citrus fruits). 


Whenever I take my meals, my nose itches regardless of what I eat. I’ve been told that it’s due to pinworms on my nose and I am taking evening primrose oil capsules. 

I have no experience with pinworms (threadworms) in the nose. Children are more prone to parasites which cause anal itching. However, most allergies cause general itchiness that may affect the nose. Evening primrose oil is a good source of the essential fatty acid, GLA, which may help reduce allergy. But if the problem continues, you should consult a doctor. Your pharmacy may also be able to recommend a low-dose steroid nasal spray which should give you some relief. 


I am a senior citizen who suffers from cellulitis on my left leg. I do not have open wounds nor am I diabetic. I have been told to eat green vegetables and fresh fruits and to take multivitamins to help build up my resistance against infection. Is there any way to prevent this from recurring? Would zinc tablets and vitamin C help? 

Untreated cellulitis may develop into something more serious. You should thus visit your doctor for a check-up. Supplements can help build your immune system. So take a comprehensive multivitamin and mineral supplement (one daily with breakfast) and vitamin C 100mg daily. You should also take Echinacea, an important herb for strengthening the immune system. Any sign of swelling or inflammation on the leg should be referred to your doctor at once. 


When I feel the onset of flu, I take Echinacea. However, I read that it should not be taken regularly as its effectiveness is reduced after 10 days. Is that true? 

There are conflicting views concerning how long one should take Echinacea. The process of taking this herb for a period and then stopping it for the same length of time is known as cycling.  

I suspect the idea of cycling is related to the fact that antibiotics should not be taken continually because of the possibility that bacteria will develop a resistance to them. However, Echinacea is helpful in preventing and treating infections because it enhances the immune system. It does not act on the virus or bacteria directly. Although there is no evidence that regular users of Echinacea will develop a resistance to it, there is also no need to take it indefinitely unless you suffer constantly from infections. 


n Shailer Cottier is a member of the New Zealand Nutrition Society and is a professional member of the New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology. This article is courtesy of Cambert (M) Sdn Bhd. 

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