It’s only natural for us to try as hard as we can to keep our kids healthy and avoid illness, but there are sometimes we just can’t avoid it. There are quite a few illnesses that are quite common among children, and one that often makes its rounds among kids is pink eye.
Also called conjunctivitis, pink eye causes inflammation of the covering of the eyeball and lining of the eyelid, known as the conjunctiva. Pink eye can be caused by a variety of factors including bacteria, pet dander or dust mite allergens, chemicals such as smog or swimming pool chlorine, and viruses. Although the condition is common in people of all ages, children are the most susceptible due to the fact that they are in close contact with peers at school. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), pink eye accounts for 3 million of the 164 million school day absences caused by infectious diseases every year.
You can spot pink eye in your kids by looking out for symptoms, as identified by Web MD, as eyelids stuck together upon waking in the morning; a thick yellow or green discharge; pain when in bright light; or other family members with the same symptoms. It is important to note, though, that some symptoms of pink eye are very similar to eye allergies, such as the appearance of thin, clear drainage along with itching, burning, or the sensation of sand in the eye. If the eyes are red, irritated, or swollen, it may just be allergies.
Some cases of pink eye are mild and can be treated at home by applying a compress over closed eyelids. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends contacting your child’s pediatrician, ophthalmologist, or optometrist, if your child exhibits any of the symptoms below. They will be able to determine if your child needs prescription eye drops, ointments, or an oral antibiotic for their specific case:
- Pain in the eye ranging from moderate to severe.
- Blurred vision.
- Extreme redness of the eye.
- Symptoms that worsen or do not improve.
As pink eye can be quite contagious, the best way to ensure good eye health is through prevention. “The only way to really prevent pink eye from spreading is to practice good hygiene,” says Lee Duffner, MD, ophthalmologist and clinical correspondent for the AAO. This involves frequent hand washing, changing pillowcases often, and reminding kids to avoid touching their eyes.
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