Pink eye (or conjunctivitis) is one of the most common types of eye infections, affecting about 6 million people every year in the United States. Highly contagious, viral pink eye poses a special problem for kids who spend a lot of time in close contact in schools, on playgrounds, and in other social settings.
While most infections aren’t serious, pink eye is still an infection — and you should never ignore it. The team at ABC Children’s Eye Specialists treats conjunctivitis to relieve uncomfortable symptoms, prevent more serious infections, and keep it from spreading to others. Here’s what to do if your child has pink eye.
Pink eye: Causes and symptoms
Pink eye happens when the clear covering of the eye (the conjunctiva) becomes inflamed. Tiny blood vessels swell, creating the pinkish or reddish look that’s characteristic of pink eye.
There are three main types of conjunctivitis: viral, bacterial, and allergic. Viral pink eye is the most contagious type, caused by a virus that’s easily passed from one person to another, typically when one person rubs their eye after touching an infected surface.
Conjunctivitis can affect one eye or both eyes. Along with the pink tint, symptoms include:
- Eye itching or burning
- Excess tear production
- Thick eye drainage
- Crusting along the eyelids
- Feeling like an object is sticking in the eye
Although pink eye can look pretty troubling, most infections are easily treated.
Pink eye treatment depends on what’s causing the infection. Bacterial infections and pink eye caused by an allergy typically are treated with special eye drops.
There is no simple “cure” for viral conjunctivitis. Instead, the infection needs to run its course while your child avoids spreading the infection to others.
Scheduling an office visit is important for identifying the cause of eye redness and making sure your child gets proper treatment. In the meantime, you can help your child feel better by:
- Cleaning the eyelid edges with warm water
- Applying a cool or warm compress to the eye
- Using over-the-counter “artificial tears” eye drops
It’s important to know that even once the redness subsides, your child can remain contagious for several days. If you’re prescribed drops or other medicines, you should continue to use those products for as long as directed, even if the symptoms have subsided.
Preventing the spread
While your child is contagious, you can help prevent the spread of the infection by reminding your child:
- Not to touch or rub their eyes
- To wash their hands frequently
- Not to share towels or washcloths
If your child wears contacts, they should switch to glasses while the eye is infected, and you should dispose of the lenses they were wearing when the infection began.
Protect your child’s vision
Even though conjunctivitis infections usually don’t cause serious problems, they still need to be evaluated by a pediatric eye doctor at ABC Children’s Eye Specialists.
If you think your child has pink eye or if they have any unusual eye or vision symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone today at our locations in Mesa or Phoenix, Arizona.