It’s that time of year again. All the kids are stuck indoors, spreading germs onto door knobs and toys, then wiping their face and getting infections in their eyes, nose or mouth. So, how do you avoid this and what can you do if you or your child has pink eye?
1. Make sure it’s pink eye (conjunctivitis) and not a foreign object that is causing the redness and swelling of the eyelids, mucus discharge, reddening of the conjunctiva and sclera, and itchiness. Conjunctivitis can be caused by a bacteria, virus or allergic reaction so it’s important to look at the signs to tell them apart. An allergic reaction to dust, wind and smoke can lead to redness, minor swelling of the eyelids, clear discharge and severe itching and tearing. A viral pink eye is similar to the allergic reaction with clear discharge, and minimal or no eyelid swelling but often has NO itching and will have other signs of a cold like swollen lymph nodes, runny nose, or cough. Bacterial conjunctivitis usually has moderate swelling of the eyelid with nasty yellow or greenish discharge from the eye, limited itching, and possibly a fever or runny nose. Take the child to a physician for proper diagnosis and to rule out a much more serious infection know as iritis, inflammation of the iris that can lead to eye damage.
2. If you have pink eye, avoid touching the eye as much as possible and wash your hands often after touching any part of your face to avoid spreading the germs to other parts of the body. Change out your pillowcases daily and anything else that comes in contact with your face. Make sure to use separate hand towels as well to avoid spreading germs to the rest of the family. Also, shower daily and keep hair, glasses and fingers away from the eyes as much as possible to reduce the contaminants entering the eye area.
3. Natural remedies that can be used topically to kill the germs causing pink eye and help heal the inflamed tissue include colloidal silver drops (kills most microorganisms), use of certain boiled and steeped herbal teas (cooled calendula tea to sooth the eyes, cooled euphrasia or goldenseal teas can treat the infection), or food based items (like warmed and cooled 1/2 organic milk to sooth the eye and 1/2 honey to kill the germs). Goldenseal also works synergistically with antibiotics to kill bacteria and further inhibit bacterial replication, making it a great choice in combination with antibiotics for bacterial conjunctivitis. It is important to treat both eyes topically with the drops several times a day because the infection often spreads from one eye to the other and treatment of both eyes will stop this from occurring. Additionally, you can boil water, and steep two black tea bags in one cup, then place the warm tea bags onto the eyes for 10-15 minutes 2-3 times a day. The tannins in the tea bags help to reduce the swelling of the eyelids aiding recovery time.
4. To help your internal immune system, it is important to avoid sugars, fried foods, alcohol and caffeine while increasing your intake of water, foods rich in vitamin A (like carrots, spinach, peas, squash, sprouts, tomatoes, grapefruit, and watermelon, eggs, tuna) and B vitamins (soy, tuna, chicken, and eggs contain most or all of the B vitamins). You can take the vitamins in a supplement as well to further enhance the function of your immune and detoxification systems.
5. Homeopathics work wonders in reducing the symptoms of pink eye. Itchiness and redness from allergies can often be treated with Euphrasia, while those with burning watering eyes that do better with warmth can benefit from Arsenicum. Thick discharge that isn’t particularly itchy and feels better with cold applicatons could benefit from Pulsatilla. There are many more possibilities so contact your ND for more information.
6. A clinical case example:
A 12 year old girl presents with swelling of her upper eyelid, creamy yellowish discharge, and redness of her conjunctiva and sclera of her left eye that started that morning with a runny nose and mild fever. There was itching and burning and it felt better with warmth applied to the eye. The child and parents were told to abide by the proper dietary and good hygiene factors listed above. The child was given Arsenicum homeopathic pellets (3 pellets twice day), an herbal eye rinse (once that evening), and EmergenC (one daily in water to supplement with vitamins). The discharge, swelling, and itching were greatly reduced by that evening but the parents forgot to use the herbal rinse in both eyes. The infection was virtually gone from the left eye the following day but had spread into the right eye. The herbal wash was increased to twice a day in BOTH eyes. On the third day, the infection was completely gone from the left eye but still has some minor swelling and redness of the right eye. The 12 yo girl was kept on the same regimen with the addition of the use of the black tea bags to be used twice daily to reduce the swelling and colloidal silver drops to be used three times daily to ensure eradication of the bacterium. The redness and swelling were completely gone from both eyes by the evening of the third day and the child returned to school on the fourth day symptom free but was told to continue the herbal wash and colloidal silver drops for 3 more days to ensure the infection was completely resolved.