What is pink eye and what do I do about it?
“So my kid has pink eye… What is pink eye and what do I do about it?”
While anyone can get pink eye, we know that often our children come home from play dates or school with eye infections. As parents, we want you to be prepared to make healthy decisions for your child’s health. Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is one of the most common eye infections there is to get, but fortunately it is usually not serious, and is very treatable with or without the aid of medicine.
What is pink eye?
Pink eye is the swelling and redness of the membrane lining of the eye and eyelid. This lining is usually clear, but infection or irritation causes the membrane to become swollen and red, causing the pink color you probably are seeing around your child’s eye.
How did my child get it?
Pink eye is very contagious, especially among children who are still in school and are within close proximity within other kids who could potentially have pink eye. There are three main causes of pink eye: a viral infection, a bacterial infection, or even an allergic reaction. Viral conjunctivitis is caught the same way as a common cold; a virus is acquired and proceeds to infect a part of the body. Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria infecting the eye. Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by irritants in the air such as pollen, dust, or pet dander. Conjunctivitis caused by allergies can flare up seasonally or from exposure to the irritant, based on what type of allergies your child has.
How do I know which type of pink eye my child has?
Viral conjunctivitis includes the following symptoms: redness of the eye, itchiness, or frequent tearing. Bacterial conjunctivitis includes the following symptoms: redness of the eye accompanied by a sticky yellow or green discharge that might cause the child to not be able to open the eye for a short period after waking up. Allergic conjunctivitis includes the following symptoms: similar appearance as viral, but allergic is accompanied by allergy symptoms such as stuffiness, coughing, or sneezing. There are also additional causes of pink eye, such as herpes, thyroid dysfunction, bug bite, or other types of infection. If you are having trouble identifying which form of pink eye your child has feel free to call our office and schedule an exam.
What do I do about it?
If a patient is having the symptoms above without improvement, an appointment should be scheduled with our office to determine the cause of the pink eye and for treatment. This is especially true if there is pain, light sensitivity, or a decrease in vision. Bacterial conjunctivitis does not heal itself and therefore needs an antibiotic to rid of the infection. If pink eye caused by a bacterial infection is left untreated, further serious complications and damage to the eye could occur. So if you are suspicious of bacterial pink eye schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
Remember, pink eye is very contagious and it is important that you do not let the infection get passed on to yourself or others. Wash your hands frequently when tending to your child and keep them out of close contact with other children for a few days after the infection appears, or until treatment is given.