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The Best Pink Eye Remedies

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  • So you've got pink eye

    So you've got pink eye

    Unless you're the luckiest person in the world, you're probably going to get pink eye at least once in your life. The bad news is it's incredibly contagious and fairly unpleasant. The good news is it's easily treated.

    We consulted with several doctors around the country to learn more about pink eye, its causes, and how best to treat it. Click through to see what we've learned about this common ailment.

  • What is pink eye?

    What is pink eye?

    “‘Pink eye’ is a layman’s term which can be used to describe any condition where the eye becomes red,” Dr. Benjamin Ticho of the University of Illinois Ear and Eye Infirmary told Healthline. “Most commonly, it refers to infectious conjunctivitis. Green or yellow pus discharge usually indicates a bacterial infection, while clear or white discharge is more commonly viral in origin. Itching is most typical of allergic conjunctivitis.”

    In other words, pink eye is caused by everything from dust to tobacco smoke to bacteria.

  • Who gets pink eye?

    Who gets pink eye?

    Everyone is at risk for pink eye. But school-aged kids are the most susceptible. Children come into close physical contact with other children during the day. Adults who live with kids that have been exposed to pink eye are prime candidates for infection as well.

    “Kids are the main culprit,” Dr. Robert Noecker, an ophthalmologist told Healthline.

    Noecker explained that both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are very robust. “They can live on a doorknob for a week,” he says. He recommends thoroughly washing hands to prevent transmission.

  • How long does it last?

    How long does it last?

    You’ll generally be out of commission for about a week. That’s from the first sign of infection until it’s resolved. Since conjunctivitis is so contagious, it’s recommended that you stay home or at least limit your contact with uninfected people.

    This also means:

    • no kissing
    • no hugging
    • no sleeping near each other

    The CDC says that students can go to school with conjunctivitis, but only after treatment has started. If close contact with other kids is unavoidable, the CDC recommends keeping them home. 

  • Medical treatment

    Medical treatment

    Treatment for conjunctivitis varies. It all depends on whether you have the bacterial or viral form of the infection.

    • Bacterial conjunctivitis: If you have the bacterial form of conjunctivitis, you'll need to see a doctor to get an antibiotic. The prescription will be either an ointment or eye drops. “Oral antibiotics aren't necessary,” Ticho says.
    • Viral conjunctivitis: This form of conjunctivitis is self-limiting. It lasts anywhere from a few days to several weeks, much like viral colds. It’s not responsive to antibiotics. Common treatments include eye drops, antihistamines, and hot/cold compresses. If you suspect that you have pink eye, see an ophthalmologist early in the course of the disease.
  • Natural treatments

    Natural treatments

    If you get the viral form of pink eye, natural treatments can help prevent conjunctivitis. Eating probiotics and a diet rich in vitamins A, K, C, and B can help to improve eye health and ward off infection. If conjunctivitis already has its pink grip on your peepers and it isn't a bacterial infection, try these remedies to ease your suffering.

    Noecker advises:

    • Wash all of your sheets.
    • Take zinc supplements.
    • Apply cold compresses to your eyes.
    • Flush your eyes out regularly with clean water.
    • Get lots of sleep.
    • Hydrate well to help speed your recovery.
  • When to see a doctor

    When to see a doctor

    Ticho advises seeing a doctor if:

    • the infected person is under 5 years old
    • your vision is in any way reduced
    • the pus near your eye is green or yellow
    • your cornea becomes opaque rather than clear

    Eye doctors are better-equipped to give a full evaluation. But if you have green or yellow pus near your eye you can also see your primary care physician. They can evaluate your symptoms to tell if antibiotics are needed. They can also refer you to an eye doctor right away, if necessary.

  • It gets better!

    It gets better!

    Having pink eye isn't anyone's idea of a good time, but it's easy to treat. Prepare to see your doctor by making note of your symptoms, and the timeline in which you contracted the disease.

    Once your physician has determined if your infection is viral or bacterial and has prescribed the right medication, you're well on your way to being clear-eyed and healthy.

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