Red, itchy, crusty
Those are common words used to describe pink eye, aka conjunctivitis.
Conjunctivitis is the inflammation or infection of the membrane, the conjunctiva, over our eyeballs. Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation caused by an allergy. Pink eye usually refers to a viral or bacterial infection.
Related post: Home remedies for allergy eyes
In adults, most cases of pink eye are viral. That means antibiotic eye drops won’t help. Like a cold, the virus just has to run its course, about a week or so.
But there are some simple home remedies to provide comfort and prevent spreading pink eye to your other eye, or to others in your family.
Treating pink eye symptoms
The most common symptoms of viral pink eye are:
- grittiness, or the feeling that there is something in the eye
- mild sensitivity to light
- mild discomfort
- blurred vision
- thin, watery discharge that crusts around the edges of the ye
If you experience sharp pain, severe sensitivity to light, thick, yellow discharge or decreased vision, you may have a bacterial infection. Call your healthcare provider.
To treat viral pink eye at home:
- Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for discomfort.
- Use warm, moist compresses (I use a wrung-out washcloth) several times a day to loosen and clean away the discharge
- Use moisturizing eye drops. Use the single-use vials and only in the affected eye! Also, don’t use a vasoconstrictor (“gets the red out”) product; it will dry out your eyes and slow down the healing.
- Don’t wear contact lenses until the redness and swelling are gone.
- Don’t wear eye makeup until the redness and swelling are gone.
Preventing the spread of pink eye
Pink eye is notoriously contagious! That’s why it’s so common in school-aged kids.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent the spread:
- Wash your hands frequently. Put hand sanitizer in strategic places, like the kitchen, entry way, etc.
- Don’t rub your eyes.
- Don’t share towels or washcloths, and wash them after every use.
- Wash your pillow case every day.
- Thoroughly disinfect contact lenses. If you wear the disposable kind, throw that pair away.
- Throw away your mascara! And never share eye cosmetics.
Pink eye is a lousy condition to experience, but be patient—it will pass.
For more about home remedies, here are my favorite books: