How a Cold Can Impact Your Eyes

November 12th, 2019

The common cold can take a major toll on your eyes — from dryness and irritation to infection and pink eye. Here’s what you can do to minimize these symptoms.

Most people associate colds with runny noses, sneezing, and coughing. But this common illness can take a major toll on your eyes as well. Being aware of the symptoms and learning how to manage them can help protect your eyes from long-term damage.

It’s standard for your eyes to be dry, itchy, and tired when you have a cold due to the changing levels of mucus in your system. Though uncomfortable, that can be remedied with the help of non-medicated, artificial tear eye drops and by putting a damp washcloth over your eyes. Another common discomfort is that your eyes can become sensitive to light due to the general congestion associated with a cold. 

Worse than those discomforts, however, is conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye” or an “eye cold.” This infection often accompanies a common cold and can result in anywhere from a few days to several weeks of irritation. Here’s what you need to know about taking care of your eyes during cold and flu season, and avoiding uncomfortable conditions like conjunctivitis. 

What Is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is an eye disease that can be caused by a virus, bacteria, exposure to chemicals or smoke, or even allergies. However, if you have pink eye following a cold, chances are that it’s caused by a virus, just like the cold itself. People often don’t realize that the same germs that make them sneeze and cough can also infect their eyes, but even something as simple as wiping your nose while you have a cold and then rubbing your eyes later can cause the virus to spread. 

The viral form of conjunctivitis is very contagious. Symptoms include redness, itchiness, a gritty feeling in your eyes (either one eye or both), discharge, and tearing. While conjunctivitis generally does not lead to problems with vision, if left untreated it can inflame the cornea, which could lead to vision loss and scarring on the eye.

How to Avoid These Symptoms 

We all touch our faces, particularly our eyes, far more than we realize. Luckily, if you are cautious and on the alert — especially when you’re near someone who has a cold — you can hopefully avoid contracting conjunctivitis. 

The best ways to keep your eyes from becoming infected include:

  • Wash your hands often and well
  • Try not to touch your eyes with your hands
  • Change your pillowcases often
  • Do not share your towels or washcloths, and wash these items regularly
  • If you wear contacts, clean and store them properly and make sure you wash your hands before inserting or removing them
  • Do not share any eye cosmetics 

If you think you might be experiencing conjunctivitis or other eye irritation related to a cold, don’t hesitate to contact us at ICON Eyecare. We can help you manage symptoms like dry eyes, irritation, or vision loss, so that you can start feeling better today.

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Give us a phone call at (970) 256-0400 Monday – Friday, 8am-5pm to schedule a consultation.

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