Letter: It’s probably a cold, not ‘pink eye’ | PostIndependent.com

Letter: It’s probably a cold, not ‘pink eye’

Dr. Matt Ehrlich
Eye Center of the Rockies, Glenwood Springs

This winter season I’ve seen a number of patients concerned about having “pink eye” or “conjunctivitis” who come to the office when they are actually sick with a cold or even the flu.

When we suffer from a viral infection of our upper respiratory tract, our eyes often get red and drippy or have a discharge from the infection. The outer lining of our eye is a clear mucous membrane known as the conjunctiva. This gets red and inflamed just like the lining of our nose and throats. Even if you have a virus with achy muscles and a fever, you still will have red eyes, even if there is no sore throat or runny nose.

So if you have red eyes with discharge and you have a viral cold or flu, there is no reason to come for an eye exam. You don’t have “pink eye.”

What can you do to feel better?

For relief you can use artificial tear drops, such as Refresh and Systane, purchased in the drug store without a prescription. If you put the drops in the refrigerator, they will be cool and soothing when you instill them. If your eyes are red and itchy, you can purchase Naphcon A or Opcon A eye drops, also over the counter without prescription. The directions are on the bottle.

If you do come to the doctor’s office or the hospital, please wear a mask. Most offices have this available for you. The mask needs to cover your nose and your mouth, so that you breathe in to the paper mask. Sometimes, I see patients wearing the mask over their mouth but not covering their nose. This doesn’t help with the spread of the illness. There is a metal band on the top border of the mask. As you position the mask over your nose, pinch the metal band so that it hugs your nose tightly to hold your breath in the mask, and not have it exhale over the top edge of the mask.

Most importantly, drink fluids and take aspirin as needed.

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