Mombasa residents turn to tea bags to treat Pink Eye disease

Residents of Mombasa have resorted to using home-based remedies to treat conjunctivitis, an eye infection which is also universally known as ‘pink eye’ or ‘red eye’ locally.

From tea leaves solution, saline water and herbals, residents who spoke to the Nation said they decided to take these remedies after pharmaceutical products failed to offer any relief.

Ms Flora Naomi, a Bamburi-based make-up artist has in the last four days been using black tea to wash her face and eyes as treatment for the pink eye infection.

“It has been a very uncomfortable experience but I have been boiling concentrated tea leaves and letting it cool before washing the eyes morning and evening until now I’m all good,” Ms Naomi said.

She suspects she contracted the infection while working in Kilifi County.

“At one time I thought I was turning blind. The irritation was so bad and I used (eye drops) but never got the desired results,” she added.

Also Read: Mombasa County issues alert on red eye infections

Ms Serah Waithira Kahiu, a bio scientist, said she uses a tea bag to treat all her eye inflammations. She boils some water then puts in a tea bag for about 3 minutes.

“I let it cool to bearable temperatures then squeeze some drops into my eyes. It stings a bit but it seems to work. The astringent in tea relieves the inflammation,” says Ms Kahiu.

She notes that some people prefer placing a tea bag on the eyelids for about five minutes instead of the drops.

Scientifically, black tea contains tannins called ellagitannin. Like other types of dietary polyphenols, ellagitannin exhibits strong antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects.

Other remedies that the residents have resorted to include using saline solution to rinse the eyes.

The saline solution is either home-made or sourced from the ocean.

Also Read: What is ‘Pink Eye’ disease? 

However, public health officers in Mombasa have asked residents not to panic because the infections can heal on their own.

“It’s something that will just clear off and no one should be worried running around looking for steroids,” said the county’s public health and disease prevention Chief Officer Abdalla Daleno.

Those with serious symptoms were asked to seek medical care.

Some of the signs of the infection which can affect one or both eyes include reddened eyes, swollen, persistent pain and yellowish discharge.

In a public notice, the Mombasa County Government Public Health Department confirmed an outbreak of conjunctivitis, but advised members of the public to take necessary precautions to prevent the infection.

These include avoiding rubbing one’s eyes, maintaining good hygiene by regularly washing hands and avoiding sharing personal items like towels or pillows.

Use of warm or cold compression on closed eyes in some cases has been employed in reducing irritation, and inflammation, soothing the eyes and alleviating redness.

Meanwhile, a spot check across the town showed members of the public going about their business casually with minimal precautions.

Most establishments lack hand washing facilities or sanitisers despite warning calls by the Public Health Department.

The Communication Director at the county’s health department Richard Chacha said they are putting in place sensitisation activities across the county to curb the spread of the infections.

“We are educating the public in schools, madrassas and places of worship. This is being done by our public health officials and community health promoters,” he said.

According to Dr Ibrahim Matende, an ophthalmologist, most communities may use different remedies depending on their myths, traditions and culture.

He however advised against the use of foreign substances on the eyeball without a specialist’s approval.

Dr Matende who is President of the College of Ophthalmology of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (COECSA) and vice president of the Africa Ophthalmology Council, confirmed that the infection usually heals naturally, expressing reservations about use of tea leaves.

“We don’t recommend using a tea bag on the eyeball. This infection we currently have in the east Coast of Africa is from a viral Infection-Adeno Virus Conjunctivitis. It is self-limiting, it resolves spontaneously without treatment or intervention,” he explained.

He cautioned that the home remedies being used might complicate the eyes and risk introducing bacteria and fungi into the eyes.

“If you really must put anything, use clean water to wash off your eyes. Some people even use urine or mothers’ milk. This is short term soothing. You get some soothing effect. The cornea, if affected and if it’s not treated in time you can go blind,” he said.

His parting shot?

-Avoid rubbing the eyes.

-Do not buy over the counter drugs.

-Eat well, especially foods rich in Vitamin C, A and E.

-Proper hand hygiene. Your hands are your worst enemies during this season.

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