Keep a Close Eye on Pink Eye

What is Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis (referred to as “pink eye” or “pinkeye”) joins the ranks of common colds and stomach viruses in the list of common predators to our children’s health. Small children in communal settings such as day cares and schools are more likely to contract this condition, more commonly known as “pink eye.” Because pink eye is highly contagious, it spreads easily, putting parents and the rest of the family at risk.

Pink eye is a common and frustrating problem. As the infection settles, the clear membrane covering the white part of the eye and interior lining of the eyelids – called the “conjunctiva” – becomes inflamed, which results in the eye turning pink. Such an infection can be either viral or bacterial. With a bacterial infection, heavy discharge and crusting is common. Viral infections usually only affect one eye and results in excessive watering with light discharge. Either way, pink eye is an unpleasant health condition. Although frustrating and sometimes painful, it typically doesn’t pose a serious health threat to the eyes, especially if the condition is treated properly.

How Do You Get Pink Eye

The birthing process poses risks of bacterial infection for newborns, making them especially vulnerable to pink eye. Conjunctivitis is found in up to 12 percent of all newborn babies in the U.S. To prevent the infection from settling or developing into a greater problem, infants are typically given an antibiotic ointment over their eyes after birth. Contact wearers are also vulnerable to the condition because bacteria can easily build up on a lens if it’s not rinsed, soaked or washed properly. Pink eye in contact lens wearers is typically caused by poor hygiene, so it’s vital that parents make sure that children who wear lenses wash them regularly and properly to avoid bacterial build-up. Hands should also be washed and cleaned before handling lenses.

Treatment, Remedies and Avoiding Pink Eye

Because adults tend to spend less time in close or cramped quarters and are typically more careful with hygiene, it’s often easier for adults to prevent pink eye, but preventative measures can still be taken among children – not only to prevent the initial infection, but to curb further spreading of the condition. As always, regular and thorough hand-washing is essential. Adults and children should also avoid sharing washcloths, pillowcases or towels, and in case of potential infection, should also avoid rubbing the eyes.  Remember to teach your children general personal hygiene habits, such as using tissues to cover their mouths and noses when they cough, and washing their hands. Make sure they understand that running their hands under water for a few seconds isn’t enough. Teach them that these good hygiene habits will not only prevent pink eye, but many other ailments as well.

Although it’s always best to be proactive when it comes to your health or that of your child, all the hand-washing in the world won’t make anyone completely immune. If your child loses a battle with pink eye and becomes infected, make sure he or she stays home and out of contact with others and make an appointment with your family physician so proper treatment can be administered. Depending on the cause of the infection, treatment could range from artificial tears and allergy pills to eye ointments and prescription medications.

It’s rare for conjunctivitis to have any long-lasting effects on the eye, but it’s still best to have the condition seen by a trusted doctor to avoid potential damage and treat uncomfortable symptoms. It’s also best to get rid of the infection altogether before any other family member falls victim to it – pink eye spreads quickly and furiously without proper precautions.

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