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How to treat pink eye at home

Conjunctivitis treatment

Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is highly contagious and can also be thoroughly uncomfortable for those infected, regardless of the type of pink eye you have. Fortunately, pink eye can be treated at home — to an extent.

There are some pink eye remedies, like over-the-counter eye drops and moist compresses, that can be utilized at home to ease discomfort. But it is still important to see an eye doctor to determine which type of infection you have and seek advice on appropriate treatment.

Home remedies for viral conjunctivitis

Viral pink eye is spread easily through the germs, sneezing or coughing of an infected person. This type of pink eye is caused by a virus, similar to the common cold — and like the common cold, viral pink eye must run its course in order to heal, as there is currently no medical cure for the condition.

What can you do to treat viral pink eye at home? While there isn’t a proven remedy for viral conjunctivitis itself, there are some home remedies that can help relieve the symptoms:

  • Cool compresses

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) lubricating eye drops (artificial tears)

  • Topical antihistamines

Home remedies for bacterial conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis is often caused by bacteria found in a person’s own skin or respiratory system, though it can also be caused by sharing personal objects like makeup, through close contact with an infected person or as a result of poor hygiene. 

Unlike viral pink eye, bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with medication. When it comes to the initial treatment of a bacterial eye infection, you can begin with the following home remedies:

  • Warm compresses (to rid your eyes of the yellowish discharge and crustiness this type of conjunctivitis causes)

  • OTC lubricating eye drops (artificial tears)

It is possible that mild bacterial pink eye cases will clear up on their own after a few days, but bacterial infections must be treated properly (often under the care of an eye doctor) in order to prevent serious damage to vision. 

See an eye doctor if symptoms have worsened, as many eye infections need to be treated with prescribed antibiotic eye drops or ointments in order to resolve.

Home remedies for allergic and chemical conjunctivitis

Both allergic pink eye (which can occur due to seasonal allergies) and chemical conjunctivitis (which can occur due to irritants like pollen, smoke, chlorine in swimming pools, cosmetic ingredients, solutions, etc.), can both be treated at home.

Chemical conjunctivitis can often be treated at home by flushing the eyes frequently with a sterile saline solution until the irritation is gone.

Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated at home with the following:

Serious conditions of allergic conjunctivitis may need to be treated with prescribed steroids if they persist.

SEE RELATED: Pink eye medicine: OTC and prescription

When to see a doctor for pink eye

If your conjunctivitis is not improving with a home remedy for pink eye, you may need to seek medical help.

The severity of conjunctivitis may be unclear, especially in early stages. However, if you experience the following symptoms, even after treating pink eye at home, further medical treatment is necessary: 

  • Severe discomfort

  • Fever

  • A change in vision

An eye doctor can determine the appropriate treatment for you, whether it’s antibiotics, topical ointment or medicated eye drops.

Specific treatment for pink eye matters

The type of pink eye you are experiencing is critical when determining your treatment. For less severe infections or allergic or chemical pink eye, you may be able to treat the condition exclusively at home.

When it comes to more serious conditions, however, an eye doctor may need to prescribe a specific solution or ointment to treat your pink eye. Of course, home remedies for pink eye can still be used to help alleviate various symptoms, but appropriate treatment is critical for your eye health now and in the long run.

Preventing pink eye at home

What can you do to prevent pink eye at home? No matter which type of conjunctivitis you may encounter, there are several strategies to help prevent an infection, which can be done both at home and as part of your daily routine:

  • Clean contact lenses thoroughly

  • Wash your hands frequently

  • Avoid touching and rubbing your eyes

  • Keep personal items (towels, washcloths, tissues, etc.) to yourself

  • Wear goggles when swimming

These tips are among the many that can be helpful in preventing an infection. However, additional treatment may be necessary, should you develop pink eye. 

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