Home treatment for pinkeye will help reduce your pain and keep your eye free of drainage. If you wear contacts, remove them and wear glasses until your symptoms have gone away completely. Thoroughly clean your contacts and storage case.
Cold compresses or warm compresses (whichever feels best) can be used. If an allergy is the problem, a cool compress may feel better. If the pinkeye is caused by an infection, then a warm, moist compress may soothe your eye and help reduce redness and swelling. Warm, moist compresses can spread infection from one eye to the other. Use a different compress for each eye, and use a clean compress for each application.
When cleaning your eye, wipe from the inside (next to the nose) toward the outside. Use a clean surface for each wipe so that drainage being cleaned away is not rubbed back across the eye. If tissues or wipes are used, make sure they are put in the trash and are not allowed to sit around. If washcloths are used to clean the eye, put them in the laundry right away so that no one else picks them up or uses them. After wiping your eye, wash your hands to prevent the pinkeye from spreading.
After pinkeye has been diagnosed:
- To learn how to prevent the spread of pinkeye, see Prevention.
- Do not go to day care or school or go to work until pinkeye has improved.
- If the pinkeye is caused by a virus, the person can usually return to day care, school, or work when symptoms begin to improve, typically in 3 to 5 days. Medicines are not usually used to treat viral pinkeye, so preventing its spread is important. Home treatment of the symptoms will help you feel more comfortable while the infection goes away.
- If the pinkeye is caused by bacteria, the person can usually return to day care, school, or work after the infection has been treated for 24 hours with an antibiotic and symptoms are improving. Prescription antibiotic treatment usually kills the bacteria that cause pinkeye.
- Use medicine as directed. Medicine may include eyedrops and eye ointment.
For pinkeye related to allergies, antihistamines, such as loratadine (Claritin) or cetirizine (Zyrtec), may help relieve your symptoms. Don't give antihistamines to your child unless you've checked with the doctor first.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- Eye pain continues or increases.
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia) develops.
- Signs of an infection develop.
- Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
If you wear contacts, be sure to remove your contacts when your eye problem starts.