How to Deal With Pink Eye

Three Methods:Getting Medical HelpTreating and Preventing Pink EyeUsing Supportive Therapy to Ease Symptoms

Conjunctivitis, or "pink eye," is an infection of the conjunctiva, the membrane that lines the eyelid.[1] Conjunctivitis is often due to a foreign pathogen, such as a virus, bacterium, fungus, allergy or foreign object. Most pink eye cases are a result of bacterial or viral infection that can be easily and safely treated, but only a medical professional can diagnose and treat conjunctivitis. If you have pink eye, then you will need to see your doctor to deal with the infection, but you can also use some supportive therapies to help you deal with the discomfort of pink eye.

Method 1
Getting Medical Help

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    See a doctor. If you think that you have pink eye, it is necessary to see a doctor for a diagnosis. Your doctor can determine the cause of your pink eye and recommend the best course of treatment. During your examination, your doctor will inspect your affected eye(s) and eyelids looking for symptoms such as:[2]
    • bright red blood vessels
    • discharge
    • irritation/itchiness
    • swollen eyelids
    • a pinkish or reddish colored eye
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    Tell your doctor about all of your symptoms. If your eye burns, stings, or keeps leaking, tell your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe some medication to help you to deal with these symptoms. Usually, the medications given for pink eye are just eye drops, but your doctor may also decide to give you antibiotics.[3]
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    Get treatment for chemical exposure. Conjunctivitis may also be the result of chemicals getting into your eyes. Chemical exposure conjunctivitis usually resolves on its own in 24 to 36 hours, but it is still a good idea to seek medical attention for chemical conjunctivitis.[4] If you have been exposed to a chemical, you should:
    • Flush your eyes with sterile eyewash right away for about 15 minutes.
    • Call poison control at (800) 222-1222 for advice on conjunctivitis from chemical exposure.[5]
    • Seek immediate medical attention in severe situations.[6] If you've introduced a dangerous chemical into your eye, you will need to get medical attention as soon as possible, even if you've already rinsed your eye.
    • Call for emergency services if necessary. In some situations, it may be better to call 911. If anyone else is around you, have them call emergency services for you while you concentrate on rinsing your eyes. The quicker you can get to a hospital, the more likely you are to prevent serious injury or blindness.[7]
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    Evaluate the severity of your condition. Some people get pink eye worse than others. If the pink eye that you are dealing with is not too bad, then you may be able to just wait it out. However, if your pink eye is severe, do not attempt to open your eye. Clean it as well as you can, and then have someone take you to the hospital.[8]

Method 2
Treating and Preventing Pink Eye

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    Follow your doctor’s treatment plan.[9]The right treatment will depend on what caused the pink eye in the first place, which is why it is necessary to see a doctor and get a diagnosis. Depending on your type of pink eye, your doctor may have prescribed or recommended special eye drops, suggested taking antihistamines, or advised you to watch and wait.
    • No matter what your doctor has advised, make sure that you follow the instructions, use the medication as directed, and avoid touching the infected eye as much as possible.
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    Use prescription eye drops as directed. Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotics in the form of eye drops or eye ointment.[10] These drops require a prescription from your doctor and are not available over the counter.
    • There are many different types of eye drops to choose from. Your physician can recommend the eye drops that will work best for you based on your medical history, sensitivity to certain drugs, or resistance to previous antibiotics.
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    Take antihistamines for allergic conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with allergy medications such as antihistamines. Your doctor may recommend that you take a daily antihistamine, like over-the-counter Benadryl, to help clear up your pink eye.[11]
    • In some cases, allergic infections will go away on their own if you avoid contact with the agent that you are allergic to.[12]
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    Watch and wait if you have viral conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis usually goes away on its own after 2-3 days and does not need antibiotics or any prescription medication.[13] If you have viral conjunctivitis, then your doctor may just advise you to wait and see if your pink eye clears up on its own.
    • If your condition does not improve or if your symptoms worsen, call your doctor right away.
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    Arrange for some time off of work or school. If the type of pink eye that you have is contagious, your doctor will likely recommend that you take some time off from school or work. Depending on the type of pink eye that you have, your doctor may recommend between 1 and 5 days off from school.[14]
    • Viral conjunctivitis takes about 3-5 days to clear up.
    • Bacterial conjunctivitis takes about 24 hours to clear up with the help of an antibiotic.
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    Take steps to prevent another episode of pink eye. The best way to deal with pinkeye is to avoid getting it. You can reduce your chance of getting pink eye by using methods to avoid spreading the infection. Conjunctivitis can easily spread from one person to the other, so use the following strategies to help protect yourself:[15]
    • Avoid touching or rubbing your eye, and wash your hands right after if you do.
    • Avoid sharing eye makeup, sunglasses, or towels with other people.
    • Children are more susceptible to these kinds of infections, so avoid direct contact with children.

Method 3
Using Supportive Therapy to Ease Symptoms

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    Clean your affected eye(s) often. Pink eye is often accompanied by drainage, which can build up and cause your eyes to crust over. It is important to keep your affected eye(s) as clean as possible. Use a wet washcloth to wipe away any drainage from your eye(s). You can also use tissues or paper towels.
    • Use a fresh tissue or clean part of the washcloth each time you wipe your eye.
    • Make sure that you wipe from your inner eye (near your nose) towards your outer eye.
    • Dispose of tissues right after you use them and put washcloths into the dirty laundry right away.
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    Apply a cold compress to soothe discomfort caused by pink eye. You can soothe some of the discomfort associated with an infection by applying cool sterilized compresses to your closed eyes.[16] Avoid using warm compresses because they can increase the spread of infection. Also, make sure that you use a separate compress for each eye and that you use a clean towel every time you use a compress.[17] To make a compress:
    • Put some ice in a clean, plastic bag and seal.
    • Wrap the bag with tinfoil. This is needed to prevent the ice melting quickly from your body heat.
    • Wrap once more with a paper towel or a towel to secure contents. This also allows compress to be less messy and more comfortable.
    • Gently put your compress on one eye. Leave it there for 5 minutes.
    • Repeat process with the other eye for 5 minutes.
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    Use over the counter artificial drops. Artificial drops can help ease your symptoms by reducing the gritty sensation that sometimes accompanies pink eye. If you are already using prescription eye drops, make sure to ask your doctor about using lubricating drops in addition to prescription eye drops.[18]
    • Your best bet for eye drops that will not interact negatively with prescribed medications is plain sterile saline solution. Your pharmacist can help you find it.


  • Make sure that you call your doctor right away if your symptoms get worse or do not improve. You may need stronger medications to fight your infection.
  • Go without eye makeup while you have pink eye. Makeup like eyeliner, eyeshadow, and mascara can be heavily irritating to the infected eye. If you typically wear heavy eye makeup and would like not to be seen barefaced, you can wear sunglasses to hide your bare eyes.


  • Pink eye is contagious. It is highly recommended that you take a day off from school/work so you don't spread the infection to other people.
  • Don't rub your eye! You may want to rub your eye because it is itchy, but rubbing your eye can spread the infection and possibly even make it worse.

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