We’ve all felt like our eyes were closed in the morning. In an instant we know it is conjunctivitis. That gritty, painful feeling in your eyes is the worst thing you can experience first thing in the morning. The relentless redness and watering only makes it worse for the rest of the day. As common as conjunctivitis or pink eye is, it is also painful and literally annoying. Watching your child struggle with pink eye or conjunctivitis can be heartbreaking. And while you may want to cuddle them while they struggle not to rub their eyes, wait! That may not be the best thing to do in this situation.
Health Shots reached out to pediatrician Dr. Neeraj Gupta to understand what conjunctivitis is and how you can care for your kids without the infection spreading to you.
What is conjunctivitis?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children attending public school in the U.S. miss three million school days each year due to pink eye. Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, the outer transparent layer of the eyes. It is also called eye flu or pink eye. Red eyes, swelling of the conjunctiva, itching, heaviness, irritation and tearing are common symptoms. Yellowish purulent discharge and/or associated fever often indicate a bacterial infection. “The most common reasons for conjunctivitis are infections (viruses and bacteria), allergies and foreign bodies. Sometimes autoimmune diseases can also cause these symptoms. Associated nasal symptoms (runny, itchy or stuffy nose) indicate 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 through hand-eye contact. It can also spread through contaminated objects. Viral conjunctivitis can also spread through respiratory droplets. However, there is no evidence that conjunctivitis can spread by looking.
Home remedies for conjunctivitis
There are many analgesic medications that can be taken during acute symptoms, followed by a consultation with an eye specialist. While it’s a good idea to go to the doctor to have your children’s eyes examined, there are also some steps you can take at home to help your child get relief.
- Use a cool compress, especially for allergic or irritating substances that cause red eyes.
- Place a warm, damp washcloth over the eyes for a few minutes if there is a suspected bacterial cause.
- Avoid touching the eyes.
- Wash hands regularly, especially after putting medicine in your eyes.
- Reduce screen time and minimize eye strain.
- Use of dim lighting and a comfortable home environment.
- Sufficient rest for the sick child promotes recovery.
- Using safety glasses or sunglasses when you go out.
- Appropriate long-term management of allergies under expert guidance.
- Associated nasal or other symptoms should be addressed appropriately.
Also Read: Boric Acid Eye Wash for Conjunctivitis: Is It a Safe and Effective Treatment?
What should you do if your child gets conjunctivitis?
When we think of conjunctivitis, we automatically worry about how easily it spreads! Getting sick while caring for a sick child might not be the best approach, right? So in addition to asking children not to rub their eyes, there are many practical steps you can take to ensure you don’t get this.
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- Replace pillowcases and sheets every day: Bacteria spread very easily through pillowcases and bedding. If you change it every day, you will ensure that you do not come into contact with this bacteria.
- Use a clean towel every day: Towels, especially facial wipes, come very close to our eyes and it is best to change them daily to avoid infection.
Wash your hands often, especially after touching the affected eyes: so whether you withdraw your children’s hands to touch their eyes or apply eye drops to your children, washing your hands is a must.
- Wash your hands after touching personal items: When cleaning up, be sure to wash your hands after touching your children’s personal items, such as their blankets and towels. Good hand hygiene is a must. Small children often use these objects to wipe their eyes or hands, which can spread the infection.
- Correct removal of tissues: Wiping of eye discharge can be very common with conjunctivitis. And while you can use eye wipes for this, it’s important to dispose of them carefully.
- Don’t touch your face: As much as you don’t want to do it, it’s very important to avoid touching your face, especially your eyes. This is the best and easiest way to prevent conjunctivitis from spreading from your child to you.