Conjunctivitis or pink eye is highly contagious. The symptoms include red eyes, swelling, itching, heaviness, irritation and watering.
We have all gone through that feeling of having our eyes being sealed-shut in the morning. In an instant, we know it’s conjunctivitis. That gritty, painful feeling in your eye is the worst thing to experience early in the morning. The relentless redness and watering make it only worse during the rest of the day. As common as conjunctivitis or pink eye is, it is also as painful and literally annoying. Looking at your child struggling with pink eye or conjunctivitis can be heartbreaking. And while you might want to hug them as they struggle to not rub their eyes, wait! That might not be the best thing to do in this situation.
Pediatrician Dr Neeraj Gupta, help us to understand what conjunctivitis is and how you can take care of your children without letting the infection spread to you.
What is conjunctivitis?
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kids, who go to public school in the US, miss three million school days every year because of pink eye. Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of conjunctiva, the outermost transparent layer of eyes. It is also known as eye flu or pink eye. Red eyes, conjunctival swelling, itching, heaviness, irritation and watering are frequent symptoms. Yellowish purulent discharge and or associated fever is often suggestive of bacterial infection. “The common reasons for conjunctivitis are infections (viruses and bacteria), allergy and foreign bodies. Sometimes autoimmune diseases can also cause these symptoms. Associated nasal symptoms (runny, itchy or blocked nose) is suggestive of allergic causes,” says Dr Gupta.
Can conjunctivitis spread by looking?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that most types of conjunctivitis can spread by hand to eye contact. It can also spread through contaminated objects. Viral conjunctivitis can also spread through respiratory droplets. However, there is no evidence to show that conjunctivitis can spread by looking.
Home remedies for conjunctivitis
There are many pain-relieving medicines that can be taken during acute symptoms followed by eye specialist consultation. While going to the doctor to get your kids’ eyes examined is a great idea, there are some steps that you can take at home as well to help relieve your child.
- Use a cool compress especially for allergic or irritant causing red eye.
- Put a warm, damp washcloth over the eyes for a few minutes in case of suspected bacterial cause.
- Avoid touching eyes.
- Frequent hand washing, especially after putting medicine in your eyes.
- Cut that screen time and minimise strain on eyes.
- Using dim light and comfortable home environment.
- Adequate rest for the sick child enhances recovery.
- Using goggles or sun-glasses when going out doors.
- Appropriate long-term management of allergies under the guidance of an expert.
- Associated nasal or other symptoms should be addressed appropriately.
What to do when your child gets conjunctivitis?
When we think of conjunctivitis, we automatically worry about how easily it spreads! Falling sick while taking care of a sick child might not be the best approach, isn’t it? So besides asking kids not to rub their eyes, there are many practical steps that you can take to ensure that you don’t get it.
- Change pillowcases and sheets every day: Bacteria spreads very easily through pillowcases and bed sheets. Changing these everyday will ensure that you don’t come in contact with this bacteria.
- Use a fresh towel every day: Towels, especially face towels, go very close to our eyes and it’s best to change these on a daily basis to avoid infection.
Wash your hands often, especially after touching affected eyes: So, whether you pull your kids’ hands back from touching their eyes or you put in eye drops for your kids, washing your hands is a must.
- Wash your hands after touching personal items: As you go about cleaning up, make sure that after touching your kids’ personal items such as their blankets and their towels, you wash your hands. Proper hand hygiene is a must. Small kids often use these items to wipe their eyes, or their hands and, thus, they may spread the infection.
- Proper disposal of tissues: Wiping eye discharge can be very common in conjunctivitis. And while you may use eye wipes for the same, it is important to dispose these with care.
- Avoid touching your face: No matter how badly you want to do it, it’s very important to avoid touching your face, especially your eyes. This is the best and easiest way to avoid conjunctivitis spreading from your child to you.