Pink eye is an extremely common and often uncomfortable condition that can make you go down a Google rabbit hole trying to find ways to get rid of pink eye at home.
But not every home remedy that you read about actually works.
This article will first explain what pink eye is and what symptoms indicate you may have it. We’ll then look at some of the most common home remedies and whether they are proven to help relieve pink eye.
What Is Pink Eye?
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an infection or inflammation in the thin outer membrane of an eyeball or on the eyelid. Pink eye can be caused by an allergy, bacteria, virus, or exposure to irritating material.
Allergic, viral, or exposure conjunctivitis is usually relatively harmless and goes away on its own within a few days. Bacterial conjunctivitis requires antibiotic drops to treat.
Pink eye can be contagious, so do not touch your eyes or come in contact with others if you have it.
Seek medical advice to determine what kind of pink eye you have and what treatment is best.
Pink eye symptoms include:
- Pink, red or discolored sclera (white part of the eyeball)
- Redness or irritation around and in the eyes
- Itchiness or burning sensations in the eyes
- A feeling that something is stuck in the eyes
- Tearing or watery eyes
- Mucus, crust, or pus in the eyes or on the eyelids
Bacterial conjunctivitis happens when bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pneumoniae come in contact with the eye.
This often happens due to poor hygiene or sharing personal objects. Symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis include pinkish and reddish tints in the eye, burning sensation, discharge or mucus from the eye, and irritation in the area.
Prescription antibiotics can treat bacterial conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is caused by adenoviruses, the same family of viruses that cause many common colds.
This is the most common type of pink eye and can easily pass from one eye to the other. While there is no medical treatment for viral conjunctivitis, some home remedies may help with recovery.
Viruses that could trigger viral pink eye include herpes simplex virus, COVID-19, picornavirus, and varicella-zoster virus.
Home Remedies for Pink Eye
The following at-home treatments may help relieve pink eye symptoms.
A cool compress may help soothe irritation and reduce swelling.
Soak a washcloth in ice-cold water. Wring out excess water and gently apply the cloth to the infected eye. Always wash your hands, and use clean water and a clean cloth for this treatment.
A number of over-the-counter (OTC) false tears or eye drops can help lubricate itchy, dry eyes. Some eye drops contain antihistamines that help with allergy-induced pink eye.
Consult a medical provider to find the best eye drops for your pink eye.
Speak to a medical expert about taking ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help with pain management and inflammation caused by pink eye.
Some people prefer a warm washcloth over a cold one for relief from pink eye.
Follow the same clean hygiene precautions and avoid extremely high heat, which could worsen pain.
Rest will help your body have the energy to fight off the infection.
Also try to reduce eye strain and stay off computers and other screens for prolonged periods of time.
Avoid touching the eyes
With any form of pink eye, avoid touching your eyes. Doing so increases the risk of spreading it and prolonging your healing process.
Wash your hands if you need to touch your eyes, and only do so with sanitized items.
Preventing Pink Eye
The key to preventing pink eye is to practice and maintain good hygiene.
Wash your hands and personal belongings often, sanitize anything that touches your face, and keep your environment clean.
Other ways to prevent pink eye include:
- If you wear contact lenses, wash your hands before inserting or removing them.
- If you wear makeup around your eyes, use clean makeup and application tools.
- Never share personal items such as makeup, towels, washcloths, and other items that come in contact with your body’s fluids.
- Wash and change your bed sheets and pillowcases often.
- Always wash your face and remove makeup and other cosmetics before going to bed.
When to Seek Medical Attention
In most cases, pink eye is not serious and will go away naturally in a few days.
If your conjunctivitis does not go away or get better in a few weeks, or if you notice other symptoms and pains, seek medical attention.
If you suspect pink eye in newborns, babies, small children, or those suffering from chronic autoimmune illnesses, call 911 or visit the emergency room.
How K Health Can Help
Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app? Download K Health to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and, if needed, text with a clinician in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is based on 20 years of clinical data.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Bacterial Conjunctivitis. (2022).
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye). (2019).
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) in Newborns. (2019).
Treatment for Pink Eye. (2019).
Viral Conjunctivitis. (2022).