Pink Eye and the Coronavirus

Since eye care providers are limiting their practice to urgent and emergency care during the coronavirus crisis, it is a good time to learn some eye safety tips and home remedies for simple eye problems. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) provides guidelines for home care of eye injuries and common conditions, which may save you a trip to an eye doctor. Of course, not every eye problem can be treated at home, so follow these guidelines to help determine your course of action.

There have been reports of pink eye or conjunctivitis in patients with the COVID-19 virus. Though rare, it is a cause for concern. Pink eye causes the conjunctiva (lining of the eye and eyelids) to get red and irritated. It is important to keep in mind that any case of pink eye, not accompanied by coronavirus symptoms (fever, dry cough, breathing problems, etc.), is probably just a common form of conjunctivitis. So how can you be sure? If you are concerned, call your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms.

Three Kinds of Pink Eye

  • Allergic pink eye is caused by an reaction to allergens like pollen, pets or mold. Both eyes usually become itchy, teary and red. The eyelids may be puffy and the eyes may feel gritty. It often occurs with other allergy symptoms like a runny nose and sneezing. Limiting exposure to the source of allergies will help relieve the symptoms. Artificial tears can help wash allergens from the eye. Over-the-counter allergy eye drops can decrease redness and itchiness, but should not be used for more than 2-3 days. It is not contagious.
  • Viral pink eye is the most common. It causes redness, burning and a watery discharge of the eye. It will go away on its own and does not respond to antibiotics. It is usually the same virus that causes the common cold and may accompany other cold symptoms like a sore throat and stuffy nose.
  • Bacterial pink eye is caused by a bacterial infection and will require antibiotic eye drops. Symptoms include redness, soreness and a sticky pus discharge or crust in the eye lashes. Call your eye doctor to discuss your symptoms.

Viral and bacterial pink eye are highly contagious and spread through person-to-person contact with body fluids from the eyes, nose and mouth. The discomfort caused by pink eye can be soothed by applying cool compresses to the eye.

Tips To Prevent the Spread of Viral and Bacterial Pink Eye

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm or a tissue.
  • Use a clean towel each time you wipe your face and eyes. Don’t share towels
  • Wash your hands often and correctly, especially after you sneeze or cough.
  • Don’t touch your eyes. Use a tissue and wash your hands right away.
  • Don’t use eye makeup while your eyes are infected. Replace your makeup after an eye infection. Never share eye makeup with others.
  • Don’t wear contacts during an eye infection. Always clean your contact lenses exactly as your eye doctor recommends. Use fresh contacts after the infection resolves.