Getting Rid of Red Eyes

by Catherine Rein
(last updated April 22, 2009)

I remember growing up and attending swim practice every day. Swimming was good exercise but the chlorine made my eyes red and irritated. I learned more about how to treat irritated eyes and soon was able to get rid of red eyes.

Nobody likes the appearance of red, irritated eyes and getting rid of red eyes can sometimes be difficult. You can get red eyes from viral and bacterial infections, parasites or allergic reactions. It's also possible to have infections spread to the eye from things that might have touched someone's infected eye, such as pillowcases, sheets, towels or makeup. The best option is to avoid the spread of eye irritation and infection by keeping hands clean and avoiding contact with the eye.

Follow these steps to get rid of red eyes and prevent the spread of infection to unaffected eyes:

  1. Avoid Contact. Avoid contact with eyes to reduce the amount of irritation and source of infection. You should wash hands frequently avoid rubbing eyes. You can also try a warm water swab along the eyelid or warm/cold compresses to reduce redness.
  2. Do Not Wear Makeup or Contact Lenses. If an infection or allergy is causing the red eyes, do not spread the infection by wearing makeup or contact lenses. You will spread the infection to the uninfected eye, if this is the case, or to the makeup or lenses, making it more difficult to clear up the infection.
  3. Antibiotic Eye Drops or Antihistamine Eye Drops. Antibiotic eye drops are given for bacterial infections such as staph, strep, chlamydia or tuberculosis. These treatments usually last from 5-7 days and are often put in every 4 hours. Antihistamine eye drops are used for allergic reactions due to hay fever, smoke, smog, chemicals or contact lenses.

Other causes of red eyes include subjunctival hemorrhage, a common event caused by sneezing, coughing or high blood pressure. This event causes a usually painless patch of bright red in the whites of your eye.

If you suffer from dry eyes, they may be due to living in a dry environment, allergy medication, sun/smoke exposure and some illnesses, such as Sjogren's syndrome, also cause dry eyes. Dry eyes are often red and irritated leading to tiny skin abrasions. Whether you have red eyes from infection or allergy you should seek treatment from a doctor for any serious eye irritation or infection.

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