Conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye, is one of the most common eye infections in the world, affecting adults and children alike. It occurs when harmful germs or irritants enter your eye and invade the conjunctiva, or the thin, moist membrane that covers your eyeball and lines your inner eyelid.
Although conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, inflammatory substances, and blocked tear ducts, most cases are the result of a bacterial or viral infection. Viral conjunctivitis is particularly contagious — it’s usually the kind that makes its way around day care centers, classrooms, and other places where groups of children routinely gather.
Viral conjunctivitis may be as contagious as the common cold, but it’s also relatively easy to contain. Here are a few simple steps you can take to stop the spread of pink eye and keep other members of your family healthy when one of your children catches it and brings it home.
Make clean hands a priority
Getting everyone in your family into the habit of washing their hands often is the simplest and most effective way you can reduce the risk of catching pink eye. This means washing your hands thoroughly each time you return from an outing, before every meal, and every time you use the bathroom.
Remember, effective hand washing requires you to lather soap on moistened hands, including on the backs of your hands and in-between your fingers, for 30-60 seconds. Younger children may need help to wash their hands properly.
Keep your fingers away from your eyes
This one can be harder to master, especially for children, but much like keeping your hands as clean as possible, keeping your fingers out of your eye area is key to preventing the spread of viral conjunctivitis.
It’s an automatic response to rub your eyes when they’re itchy or blurry. But remember that your fingers tend to be the fastest route to the place pink eye wants to be — your eye.
Do your best to avoid excessive eye touching or rubbing, and whenever possible, make sure your hands are clean before you touch your eyes. Although you may not be able to completely prevent a younger child from touching their eyes, keep reminding them gently.
Don’t share towels or bedding
When someone in your household contracts pink eye, avoid sharing towels and bedding. It’s also important to launder washcloths, hand towels, and bath towels frequently in hot water.
But to truly minimize the potential spread of pink eye among your family members and visiting friends, you should stock each bathroom in your house with clean hand towels and washcloths every day, until the risk of infection has passed.
The same rule-of-thumb goes for bedding, pillowcases, and clothing. If you normally do laundry only once or twice a week, you may need to do it more frequently.
Keep glasses and sunglasses clean
Whether you wear eyeglasses, sunglasses, or both, it’s a good idea to be a little more vigilant about keeping them clean when viral conjunctivitis is around.
Glasses may not come in direct contact with your eyes, but they’re close enough that it’s important to keep them clean — especially if you tend to put them on and take them off often throughout the day.
Clean and disinfect your glasses at least once a day to keep them as germ-free as possible. Be sure to use a fresh, lint-free towel to clean your glasses, and don’t use the same towel to clean someone else’s glasses.
For more tips on how you can keep your child’s eyes healthy and free of infection, call your nearest ABC Children’s Eye Specialists office in Phoenix or Mesa, Arizona today, or use the easy online tool to schedule a visit with one of our top-rated ophthalmologists any time.