Effective Home Remedies for Pink Eye

By Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
July 1, 2022

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. 

Symptoms

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

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

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.

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Home Remedies for Pink Eye

The following at-home treatments may help relieve pink eye symptoms.

Cool compress

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.

Eye drops

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. 

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories

Speak to a medical expert about taking ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help with pain management and inflammation caused by pink eye.

Warm washcloth

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

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.
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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 to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and, if needed, text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat pink eye at home?
Pink eye usually resolves with a few days of home treatment. Gently apply a cold compress or hot washcloth to your eye a few times a day. Keep your eyes and face clean, and avoid wearing contact lenses and eye makeup while you have pink eye.
How do you get rid of pink eye fast?
The quickest way to get rid of pink eye is to consult a healthcare provider, who can recommend treatment. In the meantime, keep the area clean and apply a cool or hot compress to soothe it.
Can pink eye go away on its own?
Yes, pink eye can go away on its own within about two weeks. However, if your pink eye does not resolve or symptoms worsen, seek medical help.
How did I get pink eye overnight?
If a virus, bacteria, or infection touches your eyes, it can lead to pink eye. Many people contract pink eye during the day, but because conjunctivitis incubates in the body for several hours, it isn’t noticeable until the morning.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years experience. He received his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from William Paterson University and his doctoral degree from Drexel University. He has spent his career working in the Emergency Room and Primary Care. The last 6 years of his career have been dedicated to the field of digital medicine. He has created departments geared towards this specialized practice as well as written blogs and a book about the topic.