Getting sick during or after traveling is nothing new. Washing hands frequently, wearing a mask, and being careful what you eat and drink can help protect you from illness when in a new place.
Most travelers do not think about protecting their eyes when they travel. Pink eye — also known as conjunctivitis — can be irritating, possibly painful, and will make travel less fun. Knowing how to safeguard your peepers from pink eye can save you from this annoyance while on vacation.
What Causes Pink Eye in Adults?
Pink eye affects the conjunctiva of the eye — an extremely thin, see-through membrane that lines the inside of the eyelid, as well as the white part of your eye. The conjunctiva becomes irritated and inflamed, causing eyes to look red and swollen. Your eyes may become itchy, tear up or feel like there’s sand in them. Your eyes may also produce a discharge that forms a crust when closed, making them hard to open.
There are four main causes of pink eye:
- Seasonal allergies
- Viral infection
- Bacterial infection
- Chemical irritants such as swimming pool chlorine or air pollution
How to Get Rid of Pink Eye Fast
Pink eye normally does not affect your vision. It usually clears up on its own in a few weeks. But, it that may still impact your travel plans.
The quickest way to clear up pink eye is to make an appointment with an optometrist wherever you are. They can help narrow down the root cause of your pink eye and possibly offer medications or other ideas to make it go away faster and lessen the symptoms.
If that’s not possible, here are a few things you can do:
- Use a clean washcloth or towel to make a warm compress for your eyes. This can help lower eye inflammation and calm irritation. The compress can also loosen up any discharge that may crust onto your eyes.
- Take aspirin or ibuprofen for any pain you may develop.
- Try over-the-counter (OTC) lubricating eye drops (aka artificial tears) for extra soothing. Do not use redness-relieving eye drops as they can worsen pink eye symptoms.
- Take OCT allergy medication for seasonal allergy pink eye.
- Temporarily stop wearing contact lenses and eye makeup, as they can cause further irritation. Make sure to throw away the contact lenses and eye makeup you were using so you do not reinfect your eyes.
- Make sure to thoroughly clean anything you use near your eyes, including pillowcases and towels, to make sure you do not pass the condition on to anyone you’re traveling with.
How to Prevent Pink Eye While Traveling
There are some ways you can help ward off conjunctivitis when on the go. Here are a few tips:
- Clean Your Hands Frequently: Viral pink eye is very contagious. Imagine someone touches their eyes and then the handle of an airplane bathroom. You touch that same handle and then your eyes. It’s that easy to transfer pink eye from one person to another. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer after touching any public surfaces.
- Don’t Touch Your Eyes: Even if you’re religiously washing your hands, a good rule of thumb is to try not to touch your eyes at all. If you have to touch them, make sure those hands are spotless.
- Disinfect When You Can: If possible, carry some disinfecting wipes with you to quickly wipe down surfaces of your hotel room, rental car, or other shared environments to kill any lingering viruses or bacteria.
- No Sharing: Do not share eye cosmetics or anything that goes near your eyes.
- Be Wary of Public Pools: As chlorine can cause pink eye, try wearing goggles if you’ll be in a public pool with high chlorine levels.
Corrie Pelc is a freelance writer in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She has a passion for health and wellness, having written for publications including Exceptional Parent, DAYSPA, INVISION, Eyecare Professional, and Hepatitis Magazine.