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Anyone unfortunate enough to have pink eye understands how painful and frustrating it is. Your eyes burn and the desire to itch the pain away becomes so unbearable that you’ll want to pluck your eyeballs right out. Worst still if the pink eye happens to your kid. This nasty infection is highly contagious and is the most common illness among children due to their lack of hygiene and not knowing who is infected. Your child will inevitably contract pink eye at some point, but there are plenty of ways to prevent and treat this obnoxious virus.
Pink eye is an infection that affects the covering of the eyeball and the inside of the eyelid. While it is usually caused by a virus, it can also be caused by bacteria. Infectious conjunctivitis — the kind that spreads from one person to another — is caused by bacteria, germs, and viruses. Often, the eye becomes infected when your child touches an infected surface and then rubs one of their eyes.
The infection causes the tiny blood vessels in the eye to dilate, resulting in the characteristic pink color. Because pink eye is so contagious, it can rapidly spread through a classroom or group of friends. Most cases of pink eye aren’t serious, but they still need to be treated by an eye doctor to help your child feel better and prevent the infection from getting worse.
Pink eye symptoms are rather easy to spot and trust me when I say, your child will be very verbal about it. The most common symptoms are having pink, red, swollen eyes, or discharge from the eyes, leaking from the eyes, crusty eyelids, lots of tears, and a scratchy, painful feeling in the eyes.
There are a few different ways your child may contract pink eye. Typically, it will be through direct contact. This is when a child with pinkeye touches the discharge from their eye and then touches another child. There is also indirect contact which is when an object that is contaminated with the virus, such as a tissue, is touched or touches another person’s eyes. Lastly, through droplets, this is caused by a common cold, droplets from a sneeze or cough can also spread it.
Most people believe that pink eye and conjunctivitis are one and the same. Yes, they are extremely similar to one another, however, conjunctivitis is slightly different.
Conjunctivitis can happen in one or both eyes. In addition to the pink appearance of your child’s eye, conjunctivitis can cause other symptoms that can help you and your eye doctor determine if conjunctivitis is the culprit. These include itching or burning, grittiness in the eye, discharge from the eye, crust along the eyelashes, and excess tearing. Even though the gritty feeling can be uncomfortable, conjunctivitis typically isn’t painful, nor does it cause blurry vision. If your child has these symptoms, they might have another eye issue, including a different type of infection.
Treatment of pink eye may involve antibiotic eye drops or ointment and will depend on the type of pinkeye. Purulent pinkeye, with a pink or red eyeball, white or yellow discharge, sticky or red eyelids, and eye discomfort, is usually caused by bacteria. It is treated with antibiotics, eye drops, or ointment, which stops the illness from spreading to others.
Non-purulent pinkeye, where the eyeball is pink or red, but the discharge is clear or watery, have range from only mild to no discomfort. It is usually caused by a virus or other irritant such as an allergy or exposure to a chemical like chlorine in a pool. An antibiotic drop will not work for this type of pinkeye.
Treatments for pink eye vary depending on the type. It could be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Pink eye can also be caused by allergies, but the allergy-related pink eye isn’t contagious. Getting a proper diagnosis will help you get the best treatment for your child, while at-home treatments can help relieve uncomfortable symptoms.
Cold compresses are among the most effective at-home treatments for pink eye symptom relief. Use a separate compress for each eye and use a clean washcloth with each application. You can also clean your child’s eyes by wiping a tissue or similar material from the inner edge of the eye to the outer edge. Use clean material for each wipe so that nothing is rubbed back into the eye. Over-the-counter pink eye medicine like eye drops can help with itchiness and pain, and some are made with antihistamines for allergy-related pink eye.
Once conjunctivitis is diagnosed, treatment depends on what’s causing the infection. Applying warm or cool compresses to your child’s eyes can help relieve some of the itching or burning sensations. You can also help by gently cleaning the rims of your child’s eyelids, especially if your child has discharge from the eye. Lubricating eye drops may also be helpful.
Most cases clear up within a week. During that time, be sure your child washes their hands frequently with soap and warm water and remind them not to touch or rub their eyes. If your child wears contact lenses, have them wear glasses during the infection, and get rid of the lenses they were wearing when the infection began.
Fortunately, there are many ways your child can prevent themselves from contracting pink eye. To list a couple, wipe tears or discharge from your child’s eye from the inside out and in one direction only. Use a clean part of the cloth each time. Make sure they wash their hands and don’t share towels or washcloths because they could spread the illness. Lastly, if your child has viral pinkeye, they can return to childcare once they have seen a doctor. If your child has bacterial pinkeye and is taking antibiotics, they should stay home from childcare or school until they’ve had the antibiotics for 24 hours.
There is no need to panic at the sight of pink eye. However, if your baby has purulent eye discharge and is less than 3 months old, your child seems unwell and has a fever, rash, or eye pain, or if the pinkeye seems to keep coming back, then it is time to see your healthcare provider.
Although pink eye is incredibly painful, fortunately, it goes away quickly compared to other illnesses and rarely leads to something more serious. There are plenty of self-care options, but your best bet would be to take your child to Chai Care so one of our skilled experts can make a proper examination that will be quick and painless!
* Legal disclaimer: The content of this article and the entire Chai Care blog is for educational purposes only; it does NOT constitute medical advice and must not be considered as such. Please consult a medical professional regarding any symptoms or health concerns you or your loved ones.