Question: I’m looking for proven, safe, natural remedies for pink eye. Our child is 4 years old, and while breast milk was our successful go-to remedy the first time around, we no longer have access to it. I’d really love to find something effective and gentle.
Answer: It seems like some childhood illnesses never go out of rotation. Pink eye is one of them.
The four common causes of pink eye are viruses, bacteria, allergies, or some other irritant in the environment (pollen, dust mites, cigarette smoke, etc).
Viral conjunctivitis usually produces more of a watery discharge from the eye where bacterial conjunctivitis causes a thicker, more greenish yellow discharge.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is more common in children. Both kinds are contagious and are usually spread through direct or indirect contact with the discharge from the eyes.
Pink Eye Relief at Home
- Avoid touching the eyes to keep from spreading the infection to the other eye or other people.
- Use a cold compress to soothe reduce the irritation from inflammation around the eyes.
- Rest or keep the eyes closed as much as possible.
- Lay a warm, damp, clean washcloth over the eyes to loosen up and gently wipe away any discharge or crust. Then gently pat the eye area clean.
- Use artificial tears or Similasan’s Pink Eye Relief drops. (Eye drops can help allergy-induced pink eye by helping to clean the eye and remove traces of the allergen. Over-the-counter eyedrops that contain antihistamines can also be effective.
How to Heal Pink Eye at Home
Since conjunctivitis is usually viral, antibiotics aren’t helpful. Overuse of antibiotics may reduce their effectiveness in the future. Additionally, studies show that viral pink eye is the most common type of pink eye and often does not require medical treatment. (source)
When it comes to home remedies for pink eye, breast milk is great. A drop or two in the eyes 3 or 4 times a day usually does the trick.
If you don’t have access to breast milk, you can try one of the following natural remedies for pink eye.
Herbal Eyewash for Pink Eye
Combine the herbs and water. Strain through a fine coffee filter. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Make sure you get all the herb particles out.
Using a glass eyedropper, wash the eye several times a day with the eyewash. Use it daily until the symptoms are gone which should take about five days. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after treatment to lessen the chance of spreading pink eye to the whole household.
Honey for Pink Eye
Part of the antibacterial activity of honey is due to its acidity being sufficient to stop bacteria from growing. (source) Manuka Honey is the ideal choice when it comes to natural healing because it contains high levels of the compound dihydroxyacetone.
Here’s how to make a Manuka Honey eye drop for pink eye relief:
Dissolve honey and salt in warm water (hot water may harm the beneficial properties of the honey). Using a glass eyedropper, place a 1-2 drops in each eye every few hours as needed. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after treatment to lessen the chance of spreading pink eye to the whole household.
Can pink eye go away on its own?
The CDC says most cases of pink eye are mild and get better on their own, even without treatment. “The infection will usually clear up in 7 to 14 days without treatment and without any long-term consequences. However, in some cases, viral conjunctivitis can take 2 to 3 weeks or more to clear up.” (source)
You should seek medical attention if you have pink eye along with any of the following:
- Moderate to severe pain in your eye(s)
- Sensitivity to light or blurred vision
- Intense redness in the eye(s)
- A weakened immune system, for example from HIV or cancer treatment
- Symptoms that get worse or don’t improve, including bacterial pink eye that does not improve after 24 hours of antibiotic use
- Pre-existing eye conditions that may put you at risk for complications or severe infection
If bacterial pink eye doesn’t clear on its own, a healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment.
Other Precautions to Take When Dealing with Pink Eye at Home
- If you or your child wears contact lenses, do not wear contacts again until the eye redness is gone and there is no discharge. Wearing contact lenses with pink eye can increase the risk of spreading and may slow down the treatment process. Plus, it’s likely very uncomfortable. Use a new pair when you start wearing your contacts again.
- Change pillowcases every day.
- Wash your hands often, especially after you touch your eyes.
- Don’t share towels or wash cloths among family members when someone has pink eye.
- It’s a good idea to toss any eye makeup and wash any brushes, lash curlers, etc. you might have used while your eyes were infected.