How the Common Cold Can Affect Your Eyes

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Nothing can put a damper on all those new year resolutions and keep you away from the gym like a cold. Regardless of where you live, your daily activities, or how healthy you are, anyone can be affected by a cold or flu virus which spread easily when the air is dry and cold.

An increase in contact with people can make you more susceptible to catching a cold. When an infected individual coughs or sneezes, mucus and germs are released into the air, or onto their hands when used to cover their mouths. Viruses travel easily from the eye to the nose and throat. The sneezing, coughing and fever that accompany a cold or flu can also affect your eyes. Our eyes are sensitive so it’s important to care for them as best you can, especially during cold and flu season.

The common cold has a woman stuck in bed.

Here are a few common effects of colds on your eyes and how to avoid them.

Pink Eye

One of the most common eye conditions associated with colds and the flu is conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye. This irritating condition can strike at any time and without warning. A number of things can cause pink eye—chemical or smoke exposure, bacteria in the eye or a viral infection. When you have a cold, chances are your pink eye is caused by a viral infection.

An example of how someone can get pink eye is when kids (or adults for that matter) wipe their noses with their hands and then rub their eyes. Keep a look out for behavior like this that can spread viruses. Should you or someone you care for get pink eye, seek out an eye doctor and remember—it is very contagious!

Burning and Itching

Pink eye isn’t the only thing that can cause itchy and burning eyes. When you have a cold, your whole body is vulnerable. Sometimes, this burning and itching can be caused by dry eyes. Remember, colds push your body to extremes. Some people experience too much mucus production, which leads to a discharge and some people don’t produce enough.

Temptation to rub dry eyes will be strong. Resist! Rubbing your eyes will only make the itching worse. Plus, if your eye is infected, you can spread it to the other eye.

Light Sensitivity

A common symptom of a cold is frequent headaches. When everything is congested, your brain really feels the impact. When this happens, your eyes can become extra sensitive to the light. There isn’t much you can do in this case other than make like a vampire and stay away from the light. Reducing your time using digital devices when you’re sick can also help. Too much concentrating on small screens and small fonts has the potential to cause eye strain, fatigue and even dizziness.

Make sure to get in for your annual eye exam! Need to locate an eye doctor? VSP’s network of eye doctors can be accessed through our Find A Doctor tool.

4 Comments

  • Tara Hough says:

    Really??? Thank you author for sharing what your knowledge to us. So if you experience common cold don’t hesitate to consult your doctor immediately for early preventive measures.

  • […] Nafey said that kids often will wipe their noses with their hands, while under the effects of the common cold, and use those same hands to rub their eyes, spreading the virus to the eyes. This can ultimately […]

  • Nicole Maer says:

    Thanks for this informative read. Any infection that affects the eyes is most discomforting, even if the actual experience isn’t as painful or itchy as conjunctivitis. Make sure to follow good personal hygiene practices like washing your hands with soap before touching your eyes to maintain eye health.

    • It is also important to follow the elementary eye care tips. Try never to read lying, on the go, in transport. A small change of distance by a few millimeters may be not noticeable, but for the eyes, this process will require large optical overloads. This greatly wears the eye muscle and is poorly reflected in vision.
      Dry eyes are harder to do their optical work, and microbes are much easier to hit such an eye. In the process of blinking, the eyeball gets natural moisturizing, therefore, performing visual work, you should blink as often as possible. You can also use special moisturizing drops.
      Do not forget to take breaks every 30-50 minutes. Sit with your eyes closed, look into the distance, do some exercises for the eyes.

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