How to treat red eyes

Red eyes? Learn how to prevent and relieve your pain

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Kate Harris

Eye Health Advisor
Ask Kate

16 December 2019

What causes eyes to be red?

Sometimes it isn't just in photos that the eyes look red. This is a common complaint that can arise for several reasons, including as a result of:

  • Hayfever
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Injury to the eye
  • Overuse of contact lenses
  • Smoking.

Although understanding the root of your problem is important for finding an effective treatment, most people long for quick relief from their symptoms. So, what can you do to address red eyes?

How to prevent red eyes

First of all, let's take a step back and look at how to prevent red eyes from developing in the first place.

Wear eye protection

Take care of your eyes by avoiding smoky or polluted environments. This type of environment will irritate your eyes, causing blood vessels to dilate and thus resulting in redness.

If you are planning to spend a long time in such environments, then eye protection, such as sunglasses or prescription/non-prescription glasses, is advisable.

If you are spending a lot of time in the water, using swimming goggles is also worthwhile.

Avoid over-wearing contact lenses

Hard or gas-permeable varieties of contact lenses are definitely ones to avoid wearing for long hours at a time. However, your optician will be able to recommend the optimum time for you to wear contact lenses, as under-wearing lenses can also result in redness as your eyes struggle to adjust properly.

Blink frequently

Keep blinking to ensure that your eyes do not become dry and sore. Sometimes very watery eyes can actually be a sign of dry eyes, as your eyes are attempting to lubricate the eyelids and prevent foreign bodies, such as dust or pollen, from entering the eye. Blinking will help to transport any contaminants out of the eye.

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How do you get rid of red eyes fast?

Red eyes can be an unpleasant experience, with the accompanying pain of particular concern. When your eyes begin to sting and you want to relieve redness quickly, there are a range of home remedies and techniques you can employ, including:


Although more common as part of a salad, placing cool slices of cucumber over your eyes often helps to reduce inflammation and soothe any irritation.

Leave the cucumber on your eyes for at least 15 minutes with your head tilted slightly back. Please do not try to multitask with cucumber over your eyes as you are quite likely to incur a bruise or two!


Many people have found that placing cold chamomile teabags over sore eyes can help to relieve symptoms of redness and puffiness. Certainly, this is easier than trying to create your own cold compress.

Pour boiling water over the teabags, then allow them to cool completely before placing over your eyes. As with cucumber, this is best performed sitting down.


This is a wonderful remedy for many minor complaints, and its value should not be underestimated. If your red eyes have been caused because of an irritant or foreign body, then washing it out with water is often the best course of action.

Water can also be used to cool the eyes, by soaking a facecloth in cold water and placing it over the eyes. You can also place ice cubes over the eyes if they are first wrapped in a cloth, otherwise you will risk damaging the delicate skin.

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Remedies for red eyes

After the initial rush of relieving red and painful eyes, it is worth looking for a more long-term solution for your red eyes. If it is a recurring problem, it is always worth seeking the advice of a doctor to rule out any underlying health conditions which need to be treated.

With this out of the way, you may find relief from moisturising eyedrops.

Euphrasia, also known as Eyebright, is a herb which has a long traditional use for easing inflammation and redness in the eyes. Fresh extracts of this herb can be found in A.Vogel Eyedrops, which is safe to use for contact lens wearers. This herb can also be taken internally in the form of Eyebright Euphrasia tincture.


Originally published 8th August 2014 (updated on 16th December 2019)

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