Party into the wee hours of the morning and the town isn't the only thing that will be painted red: Don't be surprised if your morning after eyes resemble a ruby-colored road map.
Of course, heavy partying is not the only way to make your eyes burn red the next morning. Colds, allergies, even swimming in a chlorinated pool turns eyes bloodshot. But rest assured, the damage is usually minor and temporary. Here's how to whiten up those eyes again.
Apply a cold compress. If your eyes itch, the bloodshot look is probably caused by allergies. "A cold washcloth placed over your eyes will soothe the pain and shrink the blood vessels if your eyes are bloodshot because of allergies," says Eric Donnenfeld, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology at North Shore University Hospital/Cornell Medical College in Manhasset, New York. Hold the cold compress over your eyes until the itchiness subsides. You can repeat as often as convenient during the day.
For tired eyes-use a warm compress. If your eyes are red but don't itch, then a warm compress is the answer, adds Dr. Donnenfeld: "Warmth is best for bloodshot eyes caused by fatigue, staying up too late or a cold." Just place a warm washcloth over your closed eyes for 10 to 20 minutes.
Try artificial tears. If your bloodshot eyes are stinging, try soothing them with nonpreservative artificial tears, suggests Paul Vinger, M.D., assistant clinical professor of ophthalmology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He recommends the single-dose packages.
Contacts wearers: Read the label. If you're a contact lens wearer and you notice more eye redness than in the past, read the label on your contact lens cleaner. If you're not using one labeled "preservative-free," switch to one that is. Preservatives in the cleaner can cause reddened eyes.
Put a lid on "red-out" products. "Eyedrops that promise to remove redness should be used only occasionally, because they can become habit forming," warns Dr. Donnenfeld. "After using them for a while, you may develop a 'rebound' effect, so if you don't use the drops, your eyes become red." His advice: Avoid using these over-the-counter products for more than four consecutive days, and try not to use them more than once daily.
Avoid known allergens. Steer clear of anything that has caused you to have allergies in the past: It could be causing your red-eye to flare up. Also, wash your hands after petting pets or applying makeup and shampoo, advises Thomas Platts-Mills, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center in Charlottesville.