It’s spring and there’s one problem we know our patients will mention to us: dry, itchy eyes from all the pollen here in the Tri-State and Atlanta regions. We suffer from the pollen, too, and we’re eyecare professionals!
Before you reach for eyedrops or allergy tabs, try a warm compress for eyes. It could bring you some pretty fast relief!
Make a Warm Not Hot Eye Compress!
Don’t use water that’s too hot for your compress — it can burn the sensitive skin around your eyes. We’re talking tepid to warm water, at a temperature you’d feel safe for bathing a baby or pet.
Wash your hands with soap. Don’t use hand sanitizer — it doesn’t clean as well as soap. Fill a bowl with warm water and dip a clean, dry washcloth in it. Don’t use one you’ve already showered or bathed with because it will have soap residue. You want a cloth that’s been laundered since it’s last use. Soak the washcloth and wring it out.
Important: If both your eyes are affected, use two washcloths so that any potential infection doesn’t spread.
If you wear contact lenses, take them out; in fact, it’s a good idea to wear glasses until your eyes recover. Fold the cloth and close your eyes. Put it on your tired, puffy eye for several minutes. Lie down and enjoy a quick nap. When the cloth cools down, turn it inside out and use the warm side for a few more minutes. Repeat the process with fresh warm water if you need more relief.
Keep washcloths used for eye compressions separate from the rest of the laundry to avoid passing along an infection. Wash them in hot water.
Why Did the Warm Eye Compress Work?
A warm compress for eyes adds moisture to relieve that gravelly feeling you get from dust and pollen particles. It also soaks up oils that your eye glands naturally make but can get clogged up from pollen, pollution, or even eye makeup that should be thrown out.
As you know, warm compresses also relieve pain. Eye pain is no different. Heat, even low-heat compresses, relaxes muscles and relieves pain from infections, something eyes are prone to during allergy season.
Warm Eye Compresses Can Relieve Irritations from Conjunctivitis and Styes
Allergies can trigger conjunctivitis (pink eye), a common eye infection. Warm compresses can relieve the itching and pain it brings, including from swollen eyelids.
Non-allergenic conjunctivitis can also be spread by sharing towels, clothing, makeup, pretty much anything that comes in contact with the eye area. Contact lens wearers are prone to getting it if they don’t properly store and sterilize their lenses.
Conjunctivitis can clear up on its own, but any event caused by a chemical splash should be treated by a physician right away.
Similarly, styes can be treated with warm compresses. Styes are abscesses or pimples that form near eyelashes on upper or lower lids. Most of the time they will heal on their own, but a stye that grows inside the eyelid must be treated by a physician. Styes often start as sore spots on the upper or lower eyelid. The heat from a warm compress can drain the sore and prevent it from developing into a stye.
Our blog has lots of information on treating common eye irritations. Use the links above to learn more about identifying and preventing them.