7 Tips for Avoiding Eye Infections

How to prevent eye infections

Viral, bacterial, and fungal microorganisms are all around us.  While you may do your best to minimize your contact with germs, you can’t always avoid breathing in a cold virus when you get caught in the crossfire of an uncovered sneeze.

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to avoid getting eye infections like viral conjunctivitis (pink eye), bacterial blepharitis, and ocular herpes, among others.

Eye infections develop when harmful germs come in contact with the tissues surrounding the eyes. Some of the most common eye infections invade the clear front surface of your eye called the cornea, while others disrupt the conjunctiva, which is the thin, moist membrane that lines your outer eye and inner eyelid.    

Although an eye infection can leave you with red, itchy, painful eyes that may be swollen and watery or irritatingly dry and sensitive, most are well treated and can often be avoided.

Here at KLM Eye MDs, we strive to make sure all our patients develop the kind of healthy habits that help them avoid the pain, irritation, and inconvenience of an eye infection, as well as the risk of long-term vision damage that some of them carry.


Let’s explore some of the best measures you can take to prevent eye infections.   

1. Keep your hands clean

Getting yourself into the habit of washing your hands — especially before you put in contacts, apply eye drops, or otherwise touch your eyes — is the simplest and most effective way you can reduce your risk of developing an infection.

Effective hand washing requires lathering soap on moistened hands, including on the backs of your hands and between your fingers, for 30-60 seconds.

2. Avoid touching your eyes excessively

Keeping your fingers away from your eyes may be a little harder to master than developing good hand hygiene, but it’s one of the best ways to prevent an infection. It’s only natural — and generally automatic — to rub your eyes when they’re itchy or blurry. Do your best to avoid excessive touching or rubbing.

3. Don’t share your towels

Besides laundering washcloths and bath towels frequently (and in hot water), avoid sharing your personal towels with anyone else, especially when someone else in your household has or recently had an eye infection. To truly minimize your risk of eye infection, use clean towels and washcloths.  The same goes for bedding, particularly pillowcases.

4. Don’t share your cosmetics

To minimize infections of any kind, never share cosmetics and other personal care items with anyone. To reduce your risk of contracting an eye infection, specifically, never share eye makeup, eyedrops, or other eye care products with anyone else.

If you ever do develop an eye infection, you can reduce your risk of re-infection by getting rid of any cosmetics or eye care applicators you used on or around your eyes just before or during the infection.

5. Remove eye makeup before sleeping

Always remove your eye makeup before going to bed, as sleeping with it on significantly increases your risk of developing blepharitis, an inflammatory eye infection that causes redness, itchiness, blurry vision, and the ongoing foreign body sensation in your eyes.    

6. Keep your glasses and sunglasses clean

Eyeglasses and sunglasses may not come in direct contact with your eyes, but it’s still important to keep them as clean and germ-free as possible. When you clean and disinfect your glasses each day, be sure to use a fresh, lint-free towel that hasn’t been used by anyone else.

7. Maintain excellent contact lens hygiene

Because wearing contact lenses increases your risk of developing an eye infection, it’s important to maintain the highest standard of hygiene and follow all your doctor’s recommendations. Besides learning the best way to take care of your contacts, as well as the case you keep them in, it’s important to:  

Remove your contacts at bedtime

Sleeping in your contact lenses increases your risk of developing a serious corneal infection called microbial keratitis. Even if you use extended wear contact lenses that are FDA-approved for day-to-night wear, including when you sleep, it’s important to understand that going to bed with any type of contact lens boosts your eye infection risk.

Keep your contacts away from water

Wearing contact lenses in any type of water, even chlorinated water substantially increases your risk of contracting an infection. Some of these are rare but difficult-to-treat eye infections.

To drastically cut your risk of contracting an infection, always take your contacts out before you go swimming, use a hot tub, or take a shower.

For more tips on how you can keep your eyes healthy and free of infection, call our Midwood office in Brooklyn, New York City, or use the easy online tool to schedule an appointment with one of our top-rated ophthalmologists.

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