Can You Get an “Eye Cold?”

November 5th, 2019
man blowing nose with allergies

Eye colds rarely lead to serious complications, but they can be a nuisance. Learn how to minimize irritation and prevent the condition from spreading to others. 

An “eye cold” is a type of conjunctivitis, which is commonly known as “pink eye.” The distinction between an eye cold and general pink eye is its cause: conjunctivitis is a broad term for several types of eye inflammation that might be caused by allergies, bacteria, or a virus, while an eye cold specifically refers to pink eye caused by a virus. 

Eye colds usually last seven to ten days, and — although they rarely lead to serious complications — they’re highly contagious. Here’s what you need to know about the condition, from identifying common symptoms to seeking out effective treatment.

How Do I Know if I Have an Eye Cold?

There are several symptoms of an eye cold that distinguish it from other types of conjunctivitis. Eye colds are caused by a viral infection, so if you develop eye irritation in tandem with a cold or respiratory infection, there’s a good chance you have an eye cold.

An eye cold generally leads to redness in the white part of your eyes caused by inflammation of the conjunctiva membrane. Other symptoms include itchiness, tears, and watery discharge. Different types of conjunctivitis result in thick buildup, but an eye cold is typically accompanied by thin, watery discharge. 

What to Do if You Show Symptoms

There’s not much you can do to get rid of an eye cold once you’re infected, but there are plenty of methods to relieve the discomfort. If your eye cold is causing serious irritation, consult a doctor on what steps you can take to get relief. Many doctors recommend warm water and compresses to control the irritation, but the specifics of each case require individual assessment. 

If you do show symptoms of an eye cold, antibacterial eye drops won’t relieve your itching — instead, they can actually make your symptoms worse. Only use antibacterial eye drops if you’re sure you have a bacterial eye infection, as opposed to a viral infection like an eye cold.  

Eye colds are highly contagious, and there are several preventative measures you can take to ensure everyone around you doesn’t contract the virus. Someone can catch your eye cold if they have direct or indirect contact with your eye fluid. To prevent this, you should try to avoid touching your eyes. Additionally, you be sure to change your pillowcases and discard your disposable contact lenses (or disinfect your non-disposable lenses).

It’s important to note that the symptoms usually associated with an eye cold could also indicate another, potentially more serious eye condition. Eye herpes — the leading cause of premature blindness in the Western world — is a much rarer, sexually-transmitted infection that shows similar symptoms. If your eye cold lasts longer than ten days, or if you experience eye pain or blurred vision, consult your doctor immediately. 

Treating Conjunctivitis

There isn’t much you can do to get rid of an eye cold, but there are plenty of ways you can manage the symptoms — and prevent spreading the infection to others. To get relief from your eye cold, or if you suspect your condition might be something more serious, it’s best to consult an eye doctor. 

Kleinman Evangelista offers state-of-the-art eye care in a welcoming environment. If you think you might have an eye cold, make sure to give us a visit. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

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