pink eye

How to treat pink eye?

Written by: WellCome Care Editorial Team

What is pink eye?

Most cases of pink eye (also known as conjunctivitis) are caused by a virus and is highly contagious. Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can occur along with colds or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as a sore throat.

Pink eye is spread through direct or indirect contact with the liquid that drains from the eye of someone who's infected. It can also spread from one eye to the other. While its most common in kids, anyone can get pink eye.

Treatment Options

Treatment for pink eye is generally focused on relieving bothersome symptoms good hygiene to prevent it from spreading.

Below are steps (supported by research) to manage pink eye:

  • Apply a compress. To make a compress, soak a clean and non-shedding face towel or cloth in water and wring out before applying it gently to your closed eyelids. Using cool water tends to be the most soothing, but you can also try a warm compress to see if that provides more relief for you. If pink eye is affecting only one of your eyes, take care in NOT touching both eyes with the compress.
  • Try eyedrops. Over-the-counter eyedrops called artificial tears may relieve the dry itchy symptoms common with pink eye. Some eyedrops contain antihistamines or other medications which is most helpful for those with allergic conjunctivitis.

Hygiene-Related Steps

  • Wash your hands. OFTEN. No seriously, often.
  • Do not touch or scratch your eyes with your fingers.
  • Use a new and clean bath towel and washcloth daily.
  • Change your pillowcases everyday, or as often as possible.
  • Throw away any recently used eye cosmetics (like mascara).
  • Don't share towels, washcloths, eye cosmetics or personal eye care items.
  • Stop wearing contact lenses until treatment is complete.
  • Throw away any used and disposable contact lenses.

In most cases, you won't need antibiotic eyedrops. Since conjunctivitis is usually viral, antibiotics won't help, and may even cause harm by reducing their effectiveness in the future or causing a medication reaction. Instead, the virus needs time to run its course — up to two or three weeks.

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