How to get rid of conjunctivitis fast

Medically reviewed by Tina Patel, Contact Lens Optician at Feel Good Contacts.

How do you get conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) occurs when the thin, clear overcoat of the white area of the eye and inside the eyelids (conjunctiva) become inflamed.

Early signs of conjunctivitis include itchy and irritated eyes. The eyes will also slowly turn from a light veiny pink, to a more angry red with more pronounced veins. Although it may look a little scary, generally speaking, conjunctivitis can be uncomfortable but not usually painful. It is the appearance of red eye that tends to distress most people and cause embarrassment. However, it can be cleared very quickly if treated immediately and the right precautions are taken. In most cases, conjunctivitis is either caused by an allergy (allergic conjunctivitis), bacteria (bacterial conjunctivitis) or virus (viral conjunctivitis).

What to do if you get conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is easily treated and in the majority of cases will not develop into anything more severe. The most common treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis is medicated antibiotic eye drops. Viral and Allergic conjunctivitis may need different treatments, so it is important to get advice from an optician, GP or pharmacist. Minor conjunctivitis can sometimes clear by itself.

How long does pink eye last?

Conjunctivitis can last for a few days or even up to a month depending on what type it is. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious but should clear up within a few days to two weeks. Bacterial conjunctivitis however, can last up to a month even with the treatment of antibiotic eye drops.

How to get rid of pink eye fast

Conjunctivitis usually clears up within a week to two weeks. Here are a few things you can do for pink eye treatment. These will help to accelerate the process of healing and stop the risk of spreading.

  1. Clean the eye area 2-3 times a day, using boiled, cooled warm water and a clean cotton bud. Softly wipe the eye area of mucus. Avoid transferring any dirt or bacteria onto the eye area by washing and drying your hands first.
  2. You can ask your optician, pharmacists, or GP to prescribe antibiotic, allergy medication or medicated eye drops. Chloramphenicol and fusidic acid are the two main types of antibiotics that may be prescribed. In more severe cases a heavier antibiotic may be prescribed to you. Artificial tears are highly recommended for viral conjunctivitis and they can certainly help relieve the symptoms of pink eye.
  3. Do not wear contact lenses until the condition has fully cleared. Your eyes will need as much fresh oxygen and moisture during the healing process. It is recommended to wear prescription glasses during this time.
  4. Avoid rubbing and touching the eye area when your eye is infected as this can transfer bacteria. You don't want the conjunctivitis to spread. It is suggested that long hair should be tied up and kept away from the face.
  5. Give yourself a break from wearing makeup, particularly eye makeup. Oils, fragrances, and other chemicals in cosmetics may aggravate the eye further. Also avoid using soaps and facial washes that are heavy in artificial ingredients during this time. Choose natural, fragrance free and preservative free products that will not aggravate the eye area.
  6. Always use a clean, fresh towel when drying your face and pat the eye area dry as opposed to rubbing it.

You can soothe the discomfort of a viral or bacterial infection by applying warm or cool compresses to the eyes.

Anytime you experience a change in the appearance of your eye, you should visit your optician or GP. Taking care of yourself in this way can prevent you from developing a severe eye condition.

To learn more about conjunctivitis and how to prevent it, please check our main Eye Care Hub page about conjunctivitis.

Extra reading:

What to do when you have an eye infection

What to do when you have an eye discharge

A guide to eye infections

Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace medical care or an in-person check-up. Please check with an eyecare professional before purchasing any products or remedies. For information on our article review process, please refer to our Editorial Policy.

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