Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,
Our 7-year-old son has gotten pink eye about three times in the past two years since he started elementary school, and then one of us gets it, too. We have no warning; he just wakes up with his eyelids stuck together from the mucus. Is there a good way to prevent pink eye?
Red about pink eye
Dear Red about pink eye,
Infectious conjunctivitis or pink eye is very contagious and can be spread from coughing, sneezing, or contact with contaminated items. Pink eye is commonly spread in elementary school due to children being in close quarters. The best way to prevent conjunctivitis is to frequently wash hands with soap and water and to not share items that have become contaminated such as towels or toys. Some schools may have a policy of keeping children with infectious conjunctivitis home until after treatment has begun or until asymptomatic.
WHAT IS CONJUNCTIVITIS
Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva or the clear membrane over the whites of the eye of the eye and inside the eyelids. The inflammation makes the whites of the eye pink or red. The eye(s) will feel itchy, gritty, watery, and a yellow-green mucus crust forms during the night that may feel like the eyelids are glued or pasted shut.
INFECTIOUS and NONINFECTIOUS
Pink eye can be infectious or noninfectious. Bacterial or viral infections are the main cause of infectious (contagious) pink eye.
According to HealthCentral.com, 50% of the cases of conjunctivitis are bacterial and 20% are viral.
Noninfectious pink eye is not contagious, occurs in 30% of cases and can be caused by allergies, chemicals, underlying disease, or trauma. (http://www.healthcentral.com/encyclopedia/408/158.html.
The best way to prevent the spread of infectious conjunctivitis:
1) Hand washing: Someone with infectious conjunctivitis should not touch his or her infected eyes, but if they do, then they must wash their hands immediately. Non-infected family members should wash hands often and also avoid touching their own eyes
2) Wipe away any eye discharge with a clean damp cotton ball or paper towel, discard, and wash hands well.
3) Cleaning: Frequently change infected washcloths, towels, pillowcases, disinfect surfaces that infected hands may have touched such as knobs, handles, telephones, toys, light switches, etc.
4) Eye make up: Anyone with conjunctivitis who uses eye make up should discard the infected eye make up and not wear any eye make up until no longer contagious.
5) Contact lenses: Wear glasses until no longer contagious. Throw away infected disposable lenses and wash extended wear lenses thoroughly before using again.
1) Virus: If pink eye is viral, then it should get better in about a week without any treatment. Applying a clean warm or cold damp cloth to the closed eye can soothe discomfort.
2) Bacteria: If pink eye is from bacteria, then a physician needs to prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment.
3) Allergy: For allergic pink eye, the physician may prescribe eye drops with antihistamines or anti-inflammatories.
A physician should be seen to determine the type of conjunctivitis and best treatment plan.