The worst nightmare of any traveller is getting sick while on the road. While some illnesses can end a trip, not every virus forces you to return home.
Pink eye is a large concern for travellers everywhere for the pain and annoyance of the virus can threaten the fun of a vacation.
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, comes in three forms: viral, bacterial, and allergic. All symptoms are the same with intense swollen and red eyes that are usually itchy and painful. Viral conjunctivitis is extremely contagious, but usually clears up within two weeks. Bacterial infections usually only affect children and allergic infections can be treated with allergy medications.
Here are some steps that you can take to prevent pink eye or treat it so you can salvage that trip:
The most important thing to do when you first contract pink eye is clean the eye. A warm washcloth can not only clean your eyes, but help ease the pain and itchiness.
Heat a washcloth with warm, clean water and gently rub the eye from the top down to help get rid of the excess fluid in the eye. Always use a clean cloth and make sure it’s cleaned immediately afterward to avoid further contamination.
Practice Good Hygiene
If you contract pink eye, especially viral pink eye, make sure to properly clean everything you touch. This will help keep both your other eye and your travelling companions free of the virus.
Carefully wash your hands after making any physical contact with your eye. It may be difficult to avoid scratching the eye to relieve the itchiness, but avoid touching the area whenever possible.
Clean your towels, pillowcases and sheets every day. While this may seem easier if you’re staying at a hotel that offers housekeeping, you should also warn the employees of your virus.
Stay away from wearing makeup or contact lenses while the infection is still in your eye. These items could make the infection even worse.
If you seek doctor’s attention while travelling, they will most likely prescribe you antibiotic eye drops or anti-allergy pills. These should help ease the pain and itchiness.
Keep in mind that when you’re taking antibiotics, you may still be contagious. It’s still important to practice good hygiene until the infection is completely cleared (which can take up to two weeks).
Natural Soothing Remedies
Without access to your local doctor or pharmacy, it might be hard to get the medication for pink eye while travelling.
Some natural remedies have been proven to help relieve the itchiness and swelling that comes with conjunctivitis.
Dip a bag of green tea into boiling water and place it on the eye once it’s cool enough. The bioflavonoids may help relieve inflammation in the eye.
You can also place aloe vera gel around the eyes to help reduce swelling. A study from 2012 found that aloe vera can be safely placed on the cornea.
No matter how you decide to treat or reduce the side-effects of pink eye, it’s important to practice good hygiene throughout the process. This is key to prevent spreading the bacteria to other members of your travel party or future travellers heading to your same destination.
Written for Passport Health by Kaitlyn Luckow. Kaitlyn is a freelance writer, photographer and English teacher in Milwaukee. She has a passion for capturing and writing other people’s stories. You can find her at sayhellostory.com.