Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva – conjunctiva is the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids.
Pinkeye can look quite painful and can be alarming because it may make the eyes extremely red and can spread rapidly. The good news is that it’s a fairly common condition and usually causes no long-term eye or vision damage.
How do you know you have it?
The different types of pinkeye can have different symptoms and symptoms can vary from child to child.
One of the most common symptoms is discomfort in the eye. Your child may say that it feels like there’s something stuck in their eye or you may plainly be able to see the redness of the eye and inner eyelid, which is why conjunctivitis is often called pinkeye. It can also cause discharge from the eyes, which may cause the eyelids to stick together when the child wakes up in the morning. This can be frightening for any child. Some kids have swollen eyelids or sensitivity to bright light.
So the big question is, is it contagious?
Cases of pinkeye that are caused by bacteria and viruses are contagious; cases caused by allergies or environmental irritants are not.
The Contagious Pink eye
A child can get pinkeye by touching an infected person or something an infected person has touched, such as a used tissue, towel, toy, drink bottle etc. In the summer time, pinkeye can spread when kids swim in contaminated water or play sport and touch a ball that is contaminated. It also can be spread through coughing and sneezing. It is one of those things that is very easy to catch and with just one touch, can be too late to stop it from affecting your child.
Doctors usually recommend keeping children diagnosed with contagious conjunctivitis out of school, childcare, or away from other children in general for a short time until it clears. Another thing to watch is keeping little hands from rubbing an infected eye as someone who has pinkeye in one eye can inadvertently spread it to the other eye by touching the infected eye, then touching the other eye.
The non-contagious pink eye
In cases of allergic conjunctivitis, itchiness and tearing are common symptoms. These can be allergens to the environment or something in the air and are not contagious. You can treat this type of pink eye with eyewash, eye drops like Visine, antihistamines etc.
If your child continues symptoms of pinkeye, it’s important to see a doctor. Some kinds of pinkeye go away on their own, but others require treatment.
So, what can you do to prevent your child from getting Pinkeye?
- Teach children to wash their hands often with warm water and soap.
- Don’t share eye drops, tissues, eye makeup, washcloths, towels, or pillowcases with other people.
- Avoid anyone that has it, or is showing signs.
- If you know your child is prone to allergic conjunctivitis, keep windows and doors closed on days when the pollen is heavy and dust and vacuum frequently to limit allergy triggers in the home. Irritant conjunctivitis can only be prevented by avoiding the irritating causes.
If you are already contaminated:
Be sure to wash your own hands thoroughly after touching an infected child’s eyes and throw away items like gauze or cotton balls after they’ve been used. Wash towels and other linens that the child has used in hot water separately from the rest of the family’s laundry to avoid contamination.
If you need help understanding the best treatment for you or your child, please don’t hesitate to contact us.