For many, the end of summer signifies going back to school. Whether our kids are going off to school or getting back into homeschool groups, the time has come for our families to spend more time around other kids.
Which naturally comes with a few things to worry about, like preventing pet rat stowaways in backpacks, organizing snack time for the Lego club and keeping our kids healthy.
Unfortunately, in addition to extra fun there’s usually an increase in sickness as contagious illnesses quickly spread from one to the other. One of those common ailments is pink eye. Thankfully, though, it can be treated simply at home and even prevented with the following suggestions.
What is Pink Eye?
Our eyelids and the white parts of our eyeballs are covered with a transparent membrane, called conjunctiva. The medical term for pink eye is conjunctivitis, -itis meaning inflammation. Basically, pink eye is inflammation of the conjunctiva that lines our eyes. And, according to the Mayo Clinic, eyes appear pink because the small blood vessels in the conjunctiva also become inflamed. Hence the name pink eye.
Not all pink eyes have conjunctivitis, though. Here are some of the most common symptoms to help you discern whether or not it is conjunctivitis:
- Redness and/or itchiness in one or both eyes
- Gritty feeling in one or both eyes – this gets worse the more you rub the affected eye
- Discharge from the eyes (either like thick tears or stringy) that can form a crust on the eyes, especially while you sleep
- Excess tears
How Do You Get Pink Eye?
Pink eye can be contracted a few different ways. Conjunctivitis is most commonly caused by either a virus, bacteria, or allergies.
Affects one or both eyes and is usually accompanied with a watery discharge.
Also affects one or both eyes, but the discharge is usually thicker and yellow-green in color. You might notice it in conjunction with a cold or sore throat.
Our bodies release histamine in response to seasonal allergies. This causes inflammation in mucous linings, including the eyes. Chances are, you’ll also experience intense itching in the eyes, watery eyes and sneezing.
Pink eye caused by bacteria or a virus is contagious. Treating it early can prevent it from spreading to others.
Can You Avoid It?
Pink eye can be (hopefully) avoided a few ways. My favorite is by building up the immune system so that it can respond correctly to exposure and stop it in its tracks. This can be done by eating a nourishing diet, avoiding processed, packaged foods and using immune-system boosting herbs and essential oils on a regular basis.
In addition to prevention with diet and herbs, here are a few other ways to avoid pink eye:
- Stay away from others who have it. Be less worried if they are showing other signs of allergies.
- Don’t share eye products with people, including eye drops, contact lens solution or makeup. (Be sure to use glasses instead of contacts with pink eye).
- Avoid rubbing/touching the eyes, especially after being around someone with pink eye. If you must, wash hands well before and afterward.
Natural Remedies for Pink Eye
Treating pink eye can be done simply at home. You may choose to get a diagnosis first from your healthcare provider or try home treatment first and go in if it’s not showing results.
One of the easiest ways to treat pink eye is with a warm, sterile compress, soaked in a strong herbal tea. Apply the compress every few hours until the eye(s) is clear. The following herbs are highly recommended for treating pink eye.
- Calendula – Known as a tissue healer, calendula also helps fight infection and soothe inflammation. Make a strong tea with 1 tbsp. herb in 1 cup water, then dip a clean cotton pad in it and hold it against your eye for aa few minutes. Only use each pad once. Do not use the same pad for both eyes. Do not dip the pad back in the tea to avoid contamination.
- Eyebright* – Known for bringing about speedy and effective recovery for ailments affecting the eyes.
- Goldenseal* (especially for allergies) – Known as a superb mucus membrane tonic.
- Breastmilk – Commonly applied to infants’ eyes to help with conjunctivitis from blocked tear ducts, breastmilk applied to the affected eye(s) several times a day can treat pink eye as well.
- Raspberry leaf and goldenseal tea – Help pink eye from the inside out with a tea made from astringent raspberry leaf and mucus membrane healing goldenseal. Enjoy 1 cup of tea, three times a day. Use in conjunction with the compress.
Simple, right? Now you can cross pink eye off of your list of things to worry about, and focus on more important things, like putting stowaways back their cages.