Did you or someone you know wake up with red or itchy eyes? Most common amongst children, these dreaded symptoms may be because of the notorious condition called “pink eye.”
Before you panic, though, know that it is extremely common. And most of the time, it isn’t serious. But it is highly contagious.
So check out some of the causes and symptoms for this condition. If you do have it, try some of the home remedies. And find out when you should seek medical attention.
What is pink eye? It’s the common term for “conjunctivitis.” And it’s known by that nickname because of the distinctive color of the transparent membrane in your eye. The pink or reddish color comes from infection or inflammation of the area.
Causes and Symptoms
What causes pink eye? And how do you know if you have it or something else?
First, you can get pink eye for a variety of reasons. They include:
- Viral infection
- Bacterial infection
- Chemicals in the eye
- Foreign object
- Blocked tear duct (in newborns)
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t always caused by questionable hygiene practices. Occasionally, you may be able to get medication if your doctor determines that the infection is bacterial. But if it’s viral, there is no cure. And you may have to wait for the infection to run its course, just like the flu or common cold.
Next, if you believe you have pink eye, you may exhibit some or all of the following symptoms:
- Gritty feeling
These 3 symptoms are the most common. They can occur in both eyes, or just one of them.
Additionally, your eyes may leak a white or yellow discharge that leaves a crust around your eyes. The discharge may make it difficult to open your eyes in the morning. In some cases, however, you may just experience tearing and redness from the affected eye(s).
Home Remedies for Pink Eye
Treatment is relatively simple. And you rarely need to seek medical help if you think you have pink eye. It usually goes away on its own. However, the symptoms may be uncomfortable.
Expect to see pink eye symptoms for 7 – 10 days. Occasionally they last a little longer, but that’s still no cause for alarm.
In the meantime, try these home remedies for pink eye:
Use a Compress
Soak a lint-free cloth in cool water. Wring the excess water out of the cloth thoroughly and gently press it on your infected eye. If warm water feels better, you can use that instead.
Furthermore, if you only have one infected eye, keep the cloth away and out of the other eye. Otherwise, you may infect that eye, too. You can try the compresses periodically throughout the day for several minutes each time.
Use Eye Drops
If the itchiness is bothering you, you can try over-the-counter eye drops. Make sure the type you use says “lubricating” or “artificial tears.” And avoid ones that treat “red eyes.” They may mask the course of your pink eye infection.
In addition, if your pink eye is caused by allergies, you may want to try refrigerating the eye drops. If your pink eye is due to viral or bacterial infection, however, make sure that no one else in your home uses the drops.
Wear Your Backup Pair of Glasses
This may be common sense, but it needs to be said: skip your contact lenses. If you must wear something to see properly, try grabbing your glasses instead.
You may have to throw out your contact lenses and case, too. Unfortunately, keep them and you may run the risk of re-infecting yourself. To be on the safe side, it’s better to toss them out.
You may want to wash your clothes and pillowcases often if you have pink eye. Especially if your pink eye is caused by allergies. Additionally, showering before bed may help, too.
Seeking Medical Attention
Conjunctivitis rarely requires a doctor’s visit. However, sometimes complications happen. Seek medical help if you notice any of the following:
- Changes in vision
- Eye Pain
- Light sensitivity
- A pre-existing condition or impaired immune system
If you or your loved one experiences any of these symptoms, the problem may not be pink eye. Swollen or red eyes may also be an indicator of a stye or different inflammation.
Try the home remedies first. If you don’t receive relief from them or if your infection seems to worsen, it may be time to see your doctor.
Pink Eye Prevention
You may not be able to prevent pink eye completely. But there are a few precautions you can take to minimize your risk. Or if there is already an outbreak in your home, you can try these tips to prevent further spreading it:
- Wash your hands a lot and often
- Whether or not you have the infection, avoid touching your eyes
- Wash towels and pillowcases often, preferably in hot water
- Don’t share washcloths, towels, pillowcases, handkerchiefs
- Don’t share eye cosmetics, eye drops, or anything else that touches the eyes
- Avoid known allergens
Pink eye spreads quickly and is very contagious. It most commonly spreads by touching the eye. But infections are also spread through the nose and mouth. Use universal precautions if you or a household member has pink eye.
Conjunctivitis is a common occurrence, especially if you have children in your household. But simple home remedies for pink eye can help alleviate symptoms as you wait for the infection to pass. And keeping to the easy prevention tips may also help minimize the risk of it spreading to others in your home.
Lastly, if you find that you experience allergy-based pink eye on a regular basis, you may want to speak with your medical professional. Your doctor may be able to prescribe eye drops or medications to control your allergic reactions. If not, they may recommend over-the-counter drugs that can be effective, too.