Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, affects millions of Americans every year, and a lot of those affected are kids. One reason why so many people develop pink eye is because most types are highly contagious, which means it’s really easy for kids — and adults — who are infected to pass it to other people.
With practices in Mesa and Phoenix, Arizona, ABC Children’s Eye Specialists helps prevent the spread of pink eye — and relieve its uncomfortable symptoms — with targeted treatments and patient education aimed at helping kids, their families, and their friends stay healthy.
Here’s what our team wants you to know about this very contagious eye infection.
Pink eye basics
Pink eye is an irritation or infection of the clear membrane that covers the eye and the inside of the eyelid. This membrane is called the conjunctiva, which explains the infection’s medical name, conjunctivitis. The main role of the conjunctiva is to keep your eye and your eyelid moist.
Pink eye is used to describe infection or irritation caused by lots of factors, not all of which are contagious. For instance, you can develop conjunctivitis if the conjunctiva is irritated by contact with smoke or allergens. This type of pink eye isn’t contagious, and it typically resolves once that contact ends.
Often, though, conjunctivitis is caused by germs — either bacteria or viruses. This type of pink eye is contagious — in fact, it’s really easy to spread an infection from one person to another.
Preventing pink eye
Pink eye infections can spread in different ways. One of the most common ways to “catch” pink eye is by touching an object that’s been touched by an infected person, picking up germs on your fingers, then rubbing your eyes, transferring those germs in the process.
You can also catch pink eye by touching or shaking hands with someone who has the infection and who has rubbed their eyes. Less commonly (among kids, anyway), pink eye can be transmitted through eye makeup that’s contaminated by germs.
If your child has pink eye caused by bacteria and viruses, you can help your child prevent spreading the infection to others by:
- Telling them not to touch or rub their eyes
- Having them wash their hands frequently
- Removing crusty discharge with a clean, damp cotton ball
- Making sure they use their medicine as directed
- Washing towels and bedding often
- Avoiding contact with other kids until the infection is treated
If you apply your child’s eye drops, be sure to wash your hands very well afterward.
Pink eye treatment
Bacterial pink eye typically is treated with special antibiotic eye drops. These drops help your child’s immune system fight off the bacteria that are causing the infection, preventing the infection from becoming worse.
Pink eye that’s caused by a virus can’t be treated with antibiotics. In most cases, your child simply needs to wait for the infection to run its course. Using cool compresses and artificial tear eye drops can help relieve any itching, burning, or discomfort while the eye heals.
Sometimes, conjunctivitis is caused by the chickenpox virus or another virus that needs to be treated. In those less common instances, our team may prescribe antiviral medicines to ensure the infection doesn’t progress to a more serious stage.
There’s no real way to tell whether your child’s infection is caused by bacteria or viruses without an eye exam. That’s why you should never try to treat pink eye on your own.
Don’t ignore pink eye
Even though most types of pink eye aren’t serious, other types can cause permanent problems with your child’s vision and eye health.
To learn more about conjunctivitis treatment or to find out if your child has pink eye, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at ABC Children’s Eye Specialists today.