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Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane lining the eyes.

Symptoms

  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Crustiness around the eyelashes.
  • Sensitivity to light and glare.
  • Eyes feel gritty and itchy.
  • Occasionally there is a pus discharge.

What causes it?

  • Conjunctivitis can be viral, bacterial or allergic. The latter is not contagious.
  • The allergic reaction can be to cosmetics (especially mascara), pollution, pets, dust mites or pollen.
  • Regular bouts of conjunctivitis may be a sign that your immune system is low.

Conjunctivitis can sometimes look like another condition called blepharitis, which is a bacterial infection of the eyelash follicles. In blepharitis, the eyelashes gum together and there is a noticeable crusty mucus. The natural treatment for blepharitis is the same as for conjunctivitis.

What to do

Diet

  • Avoid sugar and alcohol as they lower your immune system.
  • Eat onions and garlic daily to improve your immunity.
  • Drink a daily vegetable juice based on raw carrots with celery, beetroot and/or parsley.

Remedies

  • Make up a strong tea of a few of the following herbs: calendula, golden seal, echinacea, golden rod, chamomile and/or eyebright. Wait until the tea has cooled then use it as an eyewash or saturate a cotton swab or gauze pad with the tea and rinse the eyes. Take care to clean in one direction only – from the nose to the outside of each eye – and make sure you use a new cotton swab with each application. Even if only one eye is affected, wash out both eyes as conjunctivitis has a habit of jumping ship. The tea will last a couple of days in the fridge before needing to be made afresh. Alternatively, add 2 ml of herbal tincture Should I explain it here or point to where described eg tincture/tea/tablet in sep chapter? to 25 ml of purified water or saline solution and use in a similar fashion. The tea and tincture are also good taken orally. These herbs all have antibiotic properties and are immune boosters as well as being eye focussed. Golden seal is excellent for healing mucous membranes.
  • Take vitamins C and A and zinc for immunity. Vitamin A is particularly important for the mucous membranes, such as the conjunctiva.
  • If conjunctivitis is a regular part of your life, taken daily, cod-liver oil capsules can be helpful.
  • If you are at work or away from your herbs, apply a cool teabag (green, black or chamomile tea are all good) to ease the discomfort. Tea has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial actions.
  • If you don’t have any tea or herbs on hand, rinse both eyes with a saline solution at the first sign of redness or soreness.
  • If yours is allergic conjunctivitis, and it is an ongoing problem, it may be worthwhile being desensitised. Treatment involves first isolating the allergens (dust mites etc), then applying regular desensitisation treatments in the form of drops or injections.

Other

  • It’s hard to resist, but don’t scratch or rub your eyes – this will only spread the infection.
  • A daily change of pillowslip, flannel and towel will minimise recontamination.
  • If you usually wear contact lenses, swap to glasses for a while until your eyes are clear again.
  • Wearing some sort of eye protection in windy weather will help guard against pollens and other irritants.
  • Don’t share your eye makeup and regularly replace items such as mascara.
  • Swim in the ocean without goggles.

Children

Conjunctivitis is common among children because there is more contact between them when they play. They are also less aware of, and vigilant with, their hygiene practices. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious. If children are affected, they should be kept away from school or preschool until their eyes are clear.

  • Cod-liver oil capsules taken on their own or squeezed into juice is a good immune booster and is particularly good for preventing and treating conjunctivitis.
  • Use an eyewash twice daily using a strong, cooled tea or diluted tincture of calendula, golden seal, echinacea, golden rod, chamomile and/or eyebright. It’s worthwhile having these herbs on hand as conjunctivitis is a common childhood complaint.
  • Remind your child not to touch their eyes and to wash their hands frequently.
  • Change your child’s pillowcase every day and wash in hot water with tea-tree oil.

At a glance

Diet

  • Drink a daily vegetable juice and increase your garlic and onion intake.
  • Avoid sugar and alcohol due to their immune-lowering effects. 
### Remedies
- Use a herbal eyewash twice a day or rinse eyes with a saline solution or a cold teabag if you don’t have any herbs handy.
  • Take vitamins C and A and zinc for your immune system.

Other

  • Change your pillowcase and towels often and wash in hot water with tea-tree oil.
  • Don’t share eye makeup, especially mascara.
  • Wear glasses for a while if you normally use contact lenses.
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