If you have pinkeye, or your child has it, you may be tempted to rush to a doctor right away. But that may not be necessary.
Allergies, viruses, or bacteria can cause pinkeye, which is also called conjunctivitis. It makes one or both of your eyes red and itchy. The affected eye will drain a lot or have a white or yellowish discharge. The symptoms may last a week or 10 days, maybe longer, but they usually go away without your having to go to the doctor.
There are some easy steps you can take to ease the symptoms of pinkeye.
Try a Compress
Choose a lint-free cloth and soak it in cool water. Wring it out and press it gently to your closed eyelids. Don’t press hard, as you don’t want to injure your eyes. If you only have pinkeye in one eye, keep the compress away from the other one, or it could get infected.
If a warm compress feels better, then use warm water. Don’t make it too hot – that could make your pinkeye worse and burn your eyelid skin. Use a compress for a few minutes at a time, several times a day. Make sure no one else uses the cloth.
Use Eye Drops
The itching can also be helped with over-the-counter eye drops. Here are some tips:
- Look for the kind that say “lubricating” or “artificial tears.”
- Avoid eye drops advertised to treat “red eyes.” These drops can mask the true course of the pinkeye.
- If you have pinkeye that’s caused by allergies, try refrigerating the drops.
Skip Your Contacts
If you wear contact lenses, you should go without them until your pinkeye clears up.
You may need to throw away your contact lenses and case, because bacteria or viruses may be living in it and you can reinfect yourself
If the problem is allergic conjunctivitis, it’s very important to wash clothes and pillowcases often. Showering or bathing before bed might help, too. If you know the source of the allergy, always try to avoid it.
When to See a Doctor
If your child has red or swollen eyes, it may or may not be pinkeye. It could be a stye -- which often looks like a pimple or reddish area on the eyelid(not on the eyeball) -- or some other kind of inflammation.
It also could be a different type of allergic reaction. If there’s no sign of relief after you’ve tried home remedies for a few days, call your pediatrician or your family’s eye doctor.
You also should check with a doctor if these are among the symptoms:
Take note of when the eye problems and any other symptoms show up. If you have to consult your doctor, he will want to know this.
An allergy may cause you to get pinkeye often. Your doctor can give you tests that may find the trigger. If it’s something in the house, you can make changes to help prevent pinkeye in the future.
If pinkeye has invaded your home, there are steps you should take to help keep it from spreading to everyone else. The two most important things for everyone in your household to remember are:
- Wash your hands, and often.
- Try not to touch your eyes.
It’s also helpful to change towels and pillowcases often, and use hot water when you wash them. Never share towels or pillows with someone who has pinkeye.