Growing up, we moved from the dry climate of the Utah desert to the hot, humid weather of North Carolina. That first year was a shock to our bodies. It seemed either I or one of my three siblings would bring home something that contaminated us all from impetigo to pink eye. It was horrible, but I learned a lot.
As summer fades away and children head back to school, concerns about sunscreen and day camp are quickly replaced by homework and hygiene – and for many parents, pink eye is one of the top concerns. Children are often susceptible to catching pink eye (or conjunctivitis) —in fact, more than 3 million school days are missed each year in U.S public schools due to the spread of pink eye. To stop the spread of pink eye, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and its EyeSmart program are arming parents and teachers with important information about pink eye.
Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the thin, filmy membrane that covers the inside of the eyelids and white part of the eye (called the sclera). It can be caused by viral infections, bacterial infections and allergic reactions. It is most often caused by the same virus that causes the common cold. Both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are very contagious and easily spread by runny noses or eye secretions- usually through hand to eye contact.
To prevent spreading or catching pink eye, follow these EyeSmart tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Do not touch your eyes
- Do not reuse handkerchiefs or towels when wiping your face and eyes
- Change pillowcases frequently
- Do not use old cosmetics or share makeup
- Maintain proper contact lens care and cleaning
If you or your child has viral or bacterial pink eye, ease the discomfort by applying a warm compress to closed eyelids. Then, wash your hands thoroughly. Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis last up to two weeks and disappear on their own. For bacterial conjunctivitis, an ophthalmologist (Eye M.D) may prescribe antibiotic eye drops. If symptoms persist, take your child to an ophthalmologist to ensure they get proper treatment.
For more information about pink eye and other children’s eye health information, visit www.geteyesmart.org.