Cold and flu season is here once again. But how do cold & flu symptoms affect your eyes? Here are some tips on how to protect yourself from sickness and pink eye this season.
The Dreaded Pink Eye
There are many forms of what is commonly referred to as pink eye, or conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, bacteria, or a virus. Eye infections often go hand in hand with cold and flu symptoms depending on the cause.
Allergic Conjunctivitis: Caused by environmental allergens, leading to redness and irritation. This type is not contagious, it’s simply inflammation of the eye. It can be treated with over-the-counter antihistamine pills, lubricating eye drops, or your eye doctor may prescribe an eye drop to relieve symptoms.
Bacterial Conjunctivitis: Caused by bacteria on the surface of the skin, leading to redness, discharge, and irritation. It is transmitted from other people and surfaces. Antibiotic eye drops prescribed by your eye doctor are the most common form of treatment for this type of pink eye.
Viral Conjunctivitis: Caused by contagious viruses like a cold, leading to discharge, redness, excessive tearing, and irritation. It is highly contagious because drops will not “cure” the viral infection. It simply has to run its course. Your eye doctor can prescribe steroid eye drops to minimize discomfort, but it does not shorten the infection.
You Can Catch the Flu Through Your Eyes
According to the Center for Disease Control, the United States experiences annual epidemics of seasonal flu that spread rapidly. Furthermore, over 3 million people get pink eye every year, where the peak amount of the diagnoses happen around the same time as flu season. One of the most common ways these diseases spread is by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching your eyes. Of course, viruses are also airborne. Respiratory droplets in the air can get into your eyes from as far away as 6 feet, causing you to get sick or contract pink eye.
The Best Way to Protect Your Eyes? Good hygiene!
You can follow these steps to avoid cold and flu symptoms this season:
- It’s a good idea to wash your hands frequently.
- If you have to sneeze or cough, direct it into your inner elbow.
- Don’t share towels, makeup, or contact lenses with others.
- Follow proper contact lens care as outlined by your eye doctor, always.
- Remember to not ever touch your eyes or face without washing your hands first.
Finally, if you think you have any type of eye disease like pink eye associated with allergies, a cold, or flu, make an appointment with your eye doctor to get the proper treatment for your eye health.