Pain, irritation, swelling, redness, discharge: Every year, 6 million children and adults experience these and other symptoms of conjunctivitis (pink eye). According to a new study published in the journal Opthalmology, 60 percent of people who consult a doctor get a prescription for antibiotic eye drops—and 20 percent of those eye drops also contain steroids, which can extend the life of the infection or make it worse.
This is yet another example of antibiotic overuse. It turns out that most cases of conjunctivitis are viral (some are allergic), and antibiotics can only do harm. Natural remedies for pink eye are available. However, the cause of the infection determines the best treatment option.
The Cause Determines the Cure
As noted above, pink eye is an inflammation of the membrane that covers the inside of the eyelid and the white part of the eye. Your eye becomes bloodshot, swollen, and irritated and may be sticky with discharge, especially when you wake up. The natural remedies for pink eye you should use depend in part on whether the infection is caused by bacteria, a virus, or an allergy.
- Bacterial conjunctivitis. If you’ve got a lot of thick discharge and it’s in both eyes, it’s likely to be bacterial conjunctivitis and might require prescription antibiotic drops or ointment.
- Viral conjunctivitis may affect only one eye, and although there’s likely to be tearing, there’s generally not much discharge. No antibiotics are needed. (See Natural Remedies for Pink Eye below.)
- Allergic conjunctivitis is marked by tearing, itching, and redness in both eyes and may respond to an antihistamine. Again, no antibiotics are required. (See Natural Remedies for Pink Eye below.)
An eye specialist is your best bet for getting a proper diagnosis. Beyond that, natural remedies for pink eye are pretty much the same.
Try These Natural Remedies for Pink Eye
Bathe the eyes with either warm water or water mixed with a pinch of salt several times during the day. Apply warm compresses (cotton pads dipped in warm water) to the affected eye for five to 10 minutes three or four times a day. Chamomile compresses are particularly soothing; simply dip a teabag in warm water and place over the eye.
Other helpful natural remedies for pink eye are homeopathic eye drops, which are sold in health food stores, and colloidal silver. Topical silver has proven antibacterial and antiviral properties—even newborns’ eyes are treated with silver nitrate to prevent infections. Several of my patients have reported that a diluted solution (5–10 ppm) of colloidal silver in the affected eyes three times a day works wonders. Use one part sterilized saline water to one part silver in a clean glass eyedropper or eyecup.
Be aware that bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are both extremely contagious and can spread through families and daycare centers like wildfire. If you or your child is infected, make sure the entire family practices scrupulous hygiene. Wash hands often, don’t share towels or washcloths, and change pillowcases daily. Above all, be patient. Conjunctivitis usually clears up in a few days.
I hope these natural remedies for pink eye are helpful.