The first time one of my kids got pinkeye, I did what we’ve all been taught to do. I took him to the doctor for a treatment. But instead of helping my baby boy, the medicine the doctor gave him caused a very serious reaction. (You can read about the ordeal in my 2009 article, Don’t Be Afraid To Question.) Desperate for a safer alternative, I began my search for natural remedies for pinkeye.
Over the years I’ve successfully treated pinkeye with home remedies more times than I can recall. As a matter of fact, for the past week and a half I’ve been treating my family for conjunctivitis as it has passed from kid to kid and then on to me. So this topic is fresh on my mind!
I’ll share with you the four tried and true remedies I always rely on, but please remember that I am not a doctor and am not giving medical advice. The following is for educational purposes only. What works for me might not work for you, so use your own judgment and if in doubt consult a medical professional.
4 Tried & True Natural Remedies for Pinkeye
Pinkeye can be either viral or bacterial (the latter of which tends to be more goopy), and can last anywhere from 5-7 days to 3 weeks. It’s extremely important to keep your hands washed, pillow cases clean, and use good sanitary habits to prevent further spread of pinkeye as it’s highly contagious. Although even still it can be extremely hard to contain, especially in children! Pinkeye can easily infect both eyes if you rub the infected one and then touch the other without washing your hands first.
Remedy #1- Breast milk
If you are fortunate enough to have breast milk on hand, I’d suggest that you try this remedy first. It works great, and doesn’t have any grit or sting. Put a couple of drops of warm milk into the infected eye several times a day. If you’re taking the milk out of the fridge or freezer, knock the chill off by warming it just a tad bit on the stovetop. Do NOT microwave the milk, as this will kill the healing properties that you want to help fight the infection. Test the milk on the underside of your wrist to be sure it isn’t the slightest bit too hot before dropping any into your child’s eye. It’s helpful to keep a bag of frozen breast milk for just such an occasion, if you have access to it.
Remedy #2- Chamomile Tea Bags
Chamomile Tea bags work good for children who can sit still for 10 min. or so with the bags on their eyes. When my daughter got pinkeye I had her lay her head on my lap, put the warm tea bags over her eyes, and rubbed her hair while I made up a fantastical story about her. This helped her to be still and relax, and she actually looked forward to her treatments. I would squeeze the bags a little to get some of the tea into the corner of her eyes. Prepare the bags as if you are making tea, by soaking them in boiling hot water for a couple of minutes. Then cool to a nice warm before placing them on your child’s eyes.
Remedy #3- Melaleuca and Lavender Essential Oils
Melaleuca or Lavender essential oil can be diluted in coconut or almond oil and rubbed around the outside of the eye (over the brow bone, and underneath the eye along the sinus cavities). Do this several times a day to help your body fight unwanted pathogens. Never get essential oils directly in your eyes! If you accidentally get it in your eyes, drop milk in your eye to relieve the burning. You can also diffuse these oils at nighttime to benefit from them aromatically as well. I wouldn’t recommend rubbing essential oils on a young child’s face as they may inadvertently rub it into their eyes.
Be sure you are using a high quality essential oil to ensure you are getting the real deal. Cheap oils are not only less effective, they can actually be harmful to your body.
Remedy #4- Eyebright (Euphrasia) Herb
Eyebright tea is another of my favorite remedies for pinkeye. You can usually find it at herbal stores or online. I like to use eyebright tea bags, but you can also make an eye wash with the powdered form of the herb. If using tea bags, brew the tea as you would normally to drink it, then place the warm, wet tea bags on the affected eyes for 10 minutes 3x a day. Drink the tea for internal support as well. To make an eyewash with powdered eyebright, mix about 1/4 tsp to about 1/4 cup of warm water, and stir to dissolve. For children, I use an eyedropper to administer a couple of drops of the liquid to the corner of his/her eye and open the eye so that some of the drops get in. It’s a little gritty, which is why I prefer the tea bags, especially for kids.
Be consistent and do as many of the remedies as possible several times a day. I might do breast milk in the morning and evening, chamomile or eyebright tea in the middle of the day and again right before bed, and essential oils at bedtime. Remember to use good hygiene practices. Wash your hands any time you touch the affected eye. I would also bulk up on immune support, such as homemade Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup and Herbal Honey Blend to help your body fight from the inside out.
If the infection seems to be getting worse or does not clear up on its own after a week or so, I would consider going to see the doctor for more aggressive treatment.