How to treat conjunctivitis at home

Reader's Digest Editors

Conjunctivitis, or pink-eye, can itch. It can hurt. It can make you feel as though you’ve had sand thrown in your eyes. It looks pretty awful, too. It can also injure your eyes and, if caused by bacteria or a virus, can spread like the plague

So what are you supposed to do? Start by seeking the help of your doctor. If you have a bacterial infection, you may be given antibiotic eye drops that will speed up healing and shorten contagion time. Meanwhile, you can take steps to ease the itch and control the crusting.

 

Get an eyeful of relief

• Hot or cold compresses can help
If you have considerable discharge from your eyes, run a flannel under warm water and use it as a compress to prevent the sticky secretions from drying on the lashes. Use a cold compress (soak a flannel in iced water) to shrink swelling and reduce itchiness, especially if your conjunctivitis is caused by allergies. Do either one – or both – for 5 minutes three or four times a day. Use a clean flannel each time.

• Wipe away the secretions and crusty material with a cotton wool ball soaked in 1 part baby shampoo to 10 parts warm water. The warm water loosens the crust, and the shampoo cleans the area where your eyelid and eyelashes meet.

• Use an eyewash made of lightly salted water.
Bring a pint of water to a boil, add a teaspoon of salt and let it simmer for at least 15 minutes. Let the solution cool down. Use a sterile eyedropper or eye-bath to apply the wash. After each treatment, sterilize the eye-dropper or eye-bath again in boiling water.

• A goldenseal eyewash will help fight infection.
Goldenseal contains a compound called berberine that has antibacterial properties. To make the wash, steep 1 teaspoon of dried goldenseal in boiling water for 10 minutes, strain and let it cool. Apply with a sterile eye-dropper three times a day.

 

Prepare your eyes for bed

• If your doctor has prescribed antibiotic or steroid eye drops or ointments, use them each night before you go to bed to ensure that your eyelids don’t get glued shut while you sleep.

Make sure the tip of the eyedrop bottle or tube does not touch your eyes. Otherwise, you might contaminate the medicine and potentially re-infect your eyes the next time you use it.

 

Soothers for sore eyes

• Soothe your eyes with a camomile compress. Place a camomile tea bag in warm (not hot) water for 2 or 3 minutes, squeeze out the excess liquid, then place the teabag over your sore eye or eyes for ten minutes. Repeat three or four times a day with a fresh teabag. Keep your eyes closed so the wash doesn’t come into direct contact with your eye.

• Practitioners of Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, treat conjunctivitis with a pulp of fresh coriander leaves.Whizz a handful of coriander leaves with 100ml water in a blender. Strain off the juice and apply the pulp to your closed eyelids. Leave it on for a few minutes, then wipe away the mixture before you open your eyes.

• Another Ayurvedic treatment for conjunctivitis is to steep 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds in 1 cup of boiling water for at least 15 minutes. Strain, cool and use the water to bathe your closed eyes.Wipe away any excess before you open your eyes.

 

Contain the contagion

• To avoid re-infection, don’t wear eye make-up or contact lenses until the infection is completely gone. Discard any eye make-up you were using when the infection developed.

• Try not to touch your eyes. If you happen to touch them accidentally, wash your hands with soap and water, then dry with a paper towel or hot-air dryer instead of a hand towel.

• If you have to dab your eyes, use a separate tissue for each eye. Immediately throw both tissues in a plastic bag and wash your hands.When it’s time to throw out the plastic bag, do it yourself and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

• Carry a small bottle of antibacterial hand gel with you and use it often.

• If you wear contact lenses, do not wear them at all while you’ve actually got conjunctivitis, then sterilize them properly before wearing them again when it’s cleared up. Always wash your hands before you put in or take out your lenses. And never, ever clean a contact lens with saliva.

• Put your towel, flannel and pillowcase into the washing machine every day to help to prevent you from re-introducing the bacteria or virus to the same eye or spreading it to the other eye. (And other people can pick up conjunctivitis by using the same flannel or towels that you’ve used.)

• Let someone else make the beds. Conjunctivitis can be spread from your hands to the sheets.

• If you have young children with conjunctivitis who are too young to follow the rules about not touching their eyes and washing their hands, they should stay at home from school or nursery. Most daycare nurseries and pre-schools will not admit a child with symptoms of conjunctivitis.

 

If you have allergic conjunctivitis…

If your eye itches and produces a stringy discharge, your conjunctivitis may be the result of an allergy.Try taking an oral antihistamine to relieve the itching and swelling.

• Avoid whatever’s causing it if possible – whether pollen, animals or cosmetics. It may be a new pet, new type of eye make-up or a different shampoo.

• To help combat inflammation caused by allergies, try a combination of vitamin C and quercetin.Take 1000mg a day vitamin C in divided doses, together with 1500mg quercetin. Quercetin is one of a class of nutrients called bioflavonoids – derived from a range of fruits and vegetables – that have antiinflammatory properties.