Colds come on for a variety of reasons, but one thing’s for sure. They can affect our vision at a time when we desperately need at least one of our senses to be in good health.
So in preparation for those colds, we’ve gathered the most common flu and cold-related eye conditions and how to treat them for a quick recovery. Your nose may still be running, but at least your eyes won’t be compromised.
Pink Eye and Discharge
One of the most prevalent eye conditions associated with colds and the flu is conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye. This often harmless, but irritating condition can strike at any time and without warning.
A number of things can cause pink eye – chemical or smoke exposure, bacteria in the eye and a viral infection. When you have a cold, chances are your pink eye is caused by a viral strain.
Conjunctivitis is an infection of the cornea and is incredibly contagious during the first 24 hours. After a day, though the symptoms may persist, the condition is no longer contagious.
Pink eye can affect one or both eyes. If it affects only one eye, it’s extremely important not to transfer the bacteria from the infected eye to the normal one. If you happen to touch your infected eye by mistake or to clean it, wash your hands immediately after. You should wash your hands often when you have pink eye, even if you don’t touch the eye.
Symptoms of pink eye include: redness in the white of the eye, itchiness, mucus discharge, mild eye pain and burning.
To relieve these symptoms, a simple compress will work best for most. Either a cold or lukewarm cloth can be used depending on your personal preference.
When you have pink eye, you may also experience an excessive mucus discharge which happens overnight. This can make it difficult to open your affected eye in the morning. Don’t worry; gently wash the crusted discharge off with a warm cloth. Make sure not to rub your eye too much.
Pink eye is often nothing to worry about and normally goes away within a couple of days. If you experience a lot of eye pain or if symptoms last longer than a few days, speak to your doctor. You may need medication or ointment to speed up the healing process.
Eyelid swelling often happens when pink eye develops, but it can also happen on its own. Swelling can affect both of your eyes or just the conjunctivitis infected eye.
The swelling can occur overnight and make it difficult for you to open your eyes in the morning. However, the swelling normally goes down throughout the day. If it doesn’t, a cold compress can help to reduce the swelling.
A chamomile tea cold compress can also help with the swelling. This method will help get the blood flowing around the eye to reduce the swelling.
When the eyelids swell, it can be very uncomfortable. Your vision may be limited and blinking may even become painful. Even something as minor as eyelid swelling should be monitored. If the swelling consistently persists for more than two days, it may be a whole different problem. Speak to your doctor immediately.
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Burning and Itching
You don’t need to have conjunctivitis to experience itchy and burning eyes. When you have a cold, your whole body is under attack. Sometimes, it can be caused by dry eyes. Colds can cause your body to go to extremes. Some people experience too much mucus production, which leads to a discharge and some people don’t produce enough.
When your eyes are itchy, the temptation to scratch will be unlike anything else. Resist it! Constantly rubbing your eyes will only make the itching worse. And if your eye is infected, you risk spreading it to the other eye.
For burning and itching symptoms use a cold compress. You could use a damp cloth or you can use steeped chamomile tea bags. The latter will provide longer lasting relief and promote blood circulation around the eye.
To get rid of the dry eyes, eat omega-3 rich foods. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in oily fish, flaxseeds, eggs and walnuts. For a quick relief, you can also use non-medicated eye drops.
Headaches are a common symptom of colds and flu. Your nose is runny, your sinuses are blocked and you can’t properly breathe. Everything is congested and your brain really feels it. As a result, your eyes become extra sensitive to the light.
There isn’t much you can do in this case other than make like a vampire and stay away from the light. If you can, take a day or two off of work. If you can’t, consider buying a cheap pair of slightly tinted glasses to combat horrible office lighting.
Reduce your time using digital devices when you’re sick. Too much concentrating on small screens and small fonts will cause eye strain, fatigue and may even cause dizziness.
Sensitivity to light is heightened by the symptoms of a cold, so if you were already sensitive to light you may need to see a doctor who can prescribe medication to alleviate the headaches.
Colds might have been fun when we were young when we’d get to miss school and our parents would dote on us, but now they’re just inconvenient and interfere with our jobs and everyday lives.
Although cold and flu season is in the winter, you should still be prepared for those inevitable summer colds and don’t get caught short on tissues. Have compresses ready and available for you. Compresses are the mother of all treatments when it comes to cold-related eye conditions.
Compresses can even be made with toilet paper or cotton balls. Whichever method you choose, make sure not to touch your eyes without washing your hands.