The worst thing about waking up with red, bloodshot eyes isn't the fact that they instantly make you look sick and/or hungover. It's that usually they're accompanied by itching (if it's allergies or irritation) or a headache (if you maybe had too much wine the night before). In short, bloodshot eyes aren't fun—particularly if you're already not feeling great.
We spoke to Andrew Iwach, MD, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, to see how to prevent and deal with red eyes. Of course, if your symptoms are unusual or they last for longer than a few days, Iwach says to contact your ophthalmologist. But for cases that aren't serious, you can pretty easily get rid of red eyes without a trip to the doctor.
Try a Warm Sock Compress
Specifically, a cotton sock filled with uncooked rice that's been microwaved. Sounds weird, but it's an effective option. It works because it provides gentle heat over a longer period of time than, say, a warm washcloth, Iwach explains. "Heat actually helps the oil go through the glands," he says, which helps reduce irritation. Make sure you know what the sock is made of, though—if it's primarily plastic, the sock will melt.
If you're not a fan of doing it yourself, you can also try to keep a couple of these self-heating eye masks around.
Take a Break From Your Smartphone
When you don't blink enough, your eyes aren't properly lubricated, which can cause redness. If you spend a lot of time on your phone or computer, try taking "blink breaks" every few minutes to keep the moisture balance of your eyes intact. Similarly, you can get "screen sickness" that will leave you feeling awful—it's the same as carsickness, but you get it from scrolling.
Take Breaks From Wearing Makeup
Unfortunately, according to Iwach, your makeup could be causing your red eyes. And he doesn't just mean makeup like eyeliner and mascara. Even your face powder could be a culprit. He recommends going makeup-free for at least a couple of days a week and making a note of how your eyes look and feel to see if your makeup is making your eyes red.
Wear Sunglasses When You're Outside
This feels intuitive, but some people don't love the look of sunglasses and so grin and bear it without paying attention to the damage sun might be doing. If you're dealing with red eyes, it's time to let that notion go.
Make Sure Your Eyes Are Totally Clean
Iwach notes that you should definitely make a point to clean the base of your lashes, as this can be where irritants congregate. Iwach explains that there are oil glands along the margins of your eyes. Sometimes this oil accumulates and acts like flypaper for irritants—not just makeup—that cause red eyes.
Use a Cold Washcloth
Iwach says that, generally, applying cold to your eyes can help reduce inflammation and redness and make your eyeballs feel better.
Apply Cucumber Slices
Iwach says that this works in a similar way to the cool washcloth. Just make sure your cucumber slices are straight from the fridge for maximum relief.
Dehydration can cause your eyes to become bloodshot. The solution is obvious: Stay hydrated. Here's exactly how much water you should drink in a day.
Use Artificial Tears
The most obvious—and probably least time-consuming—option is to use artificial tears (aka eyedrops). Iwach calls them the safest, simplest solution for irritated eyes because they can help flush irritants out of your eyes and also help with dry eyes.
Don't Sit Under the AC
Iwach says to make a note of where you sit in your office or in your home. Are you near a fan? A vent? A window? If you notice you have red, irritated eyes, it could be from the air blowing in your face.