Tis the season for…illness and infection! The fall and winter seasons always seem to accelerate the spread of unwanted illnesses, and pink eye is no exception. While it’s good news that pink eye, formally known as conjunctivitis, is usually mild and easy to cure, it’s still important to understand the causes, signs, and solutions.
Pink Eye: A Common Pediatric Eye Infection
Pink eye is an incredibly common infection, especially among children. It’s so common that 3 million of the 164 million school days missed annually by children in the US are due to pink eye. Conjunctivitis forms when the thin, filmy membrane that covers the inside of the eyelid becomes inflamed. It can occur in bacterial, viral, or allergic form. Bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious, while allergic conjunctivitis is simply the body’s reaction to an allergen. The viral form of pink eye, meanwhile, is caused by the same virus as the common cold and will often become noticeable in the midsts of a bad cold, making it very contagious and uncomfortable.
The Causes and Symptoms of Pinkeye
Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are usually spread through eye-to-hand contact between a sick and healthy individual, but it’s also caused by the spread of infection from the bacteria living in a person’s own nose. Poor contact lens hygiene can also lead to pink eye. Children who are in close contact throughout the day in school and daycare centers are most susceptible.
It’s easy to recognize pink eye by redness in the white of the eye, swelling eyelids, itching and burning in the eyelids, excessive tearing, and drainage that causes the eyelashes to stick together. Viral pink eye usually lasts about one week, but medicines cannot accelerate healing so it’s important to wash hands often, avoid contact with others, and wash linens after each use. Bacterial pinkeye, on the other hand, can be treated with antibiotics for quicker recovery.