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What to do if your child has pink eye

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According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, has social, health and economic repercussions. In fact, nearly 6 million Americans contract acute pink eye each year. For bacterial conjunctivitis, the cost of annual treatment totals anywhere from $377 to $857 million. In turn, the prevalence of pink eye can result in sick days from school and discomfort for your child. However with the right knowledge, prevention and treatment, experiencing pink eye can be as seamless and unobtrusive as possible.

About pink eye
There are four types of pink eye, according to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. These are allergic, bacterial, sexually transmitted and viral conjunctivitis.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained that allergic pink eye is a result of allergies to agents such as pollen, dust mites and mold, among others. Bacteria-prompted infection causes bacterial conjunctivitis. Viral pink eye is caused by viruses associated with colds, sore throats or upper respiratory tract infections. Finally, sexually transmitted pink eye is typically contracted through vaginal birth when the mother of the baby has an active sexually transmitted disease like gonorrhea or chlamydia, according to CHLA.

Pink eye can sprout from four different sources.
Pink eye can develop from four different sources.

Preventing pink eye
Conjunctivitis can be avoided though maintaining good hygiene, according to the Mayo Clinic. These personal hygiene precautions can be simple steps that become routine and habit. Review the following practices with your kids for a healthy family:

  • Avoid touching your eyes.
  • Do not lend eye cosmetics or makeup tools to others.
  • Frequently wash your hands.
  • Sanitize doorknobs, drawer handles and other frequently trafficked handgrips throughout the house.
  • Switch out your pillowcases with fresh ones each week.
  • Take any prescribed antibiotics for the doctor-recommended length of time.
  • Use your own towels.

Symptoms of pink eye
Depending on the severity of the conjunctivitis case and cause, pink eye can be in one or both eyes. The Mayo Clinic said that standard symptoms include eye itchiness and redness, discharge (green, yellow or white) from the eye that becomes crusty, a gritty feeling and an increased amount of tears.

Caring for pink eye
The CDC explained that while most mild cases of conjunctivitis resolve independently, there are times when help from a health care professional may be required. However, in the initial stages of pink eye, there are certain precautions that can ease symptoms.

"Pink eye is that it is extremely contagious."

For allergic pink eye, the Mayo Clinic said to avoid the allergy-causing agent, wash clothes and blankets frequently, and bathe prior to going to bed. These combined steps will lessen the severity and reduce the risk of allergic conjunctivitis.

Other measures for conjunctivitis care include using over-the-counter eye drops (avoid Visine and Clear Eyes, as their anti-redness properties can lead to greater irritation) and wearing glasses instead of contact lenses. Eye drops that contain antihistamines are most effective for allergic pink eye.

To address eye discharge and irritation associated with pink eye, apply a cool, clean, lint-free and damp washcloth to the affected eye. Then gently press the washcloth against the closed eyelid for a couple of minutes during various times throughout the day. It is important to use a fresh washcloth each time for each individual eye. Using the same washcloth for both eyes heightens the risk of contamination.

Pink eye is extremely contagious, which is one of the worst aspects of the infection. When treating your child, do not touch or rub your eyes. The CDC also recommended washing your hands before and after helping your child, as well as washing them frequently throughout the day. It is also important not to share makeup, eyeglasses and contact lens containers, among other items that may come in contact with infected eyes.

Babies with pink eye
Infants who have conjunctivitis should see a doctor immediately because it can be serious or a sign of another underlying condition such as a blocked tear duct, according to the CDC. On some rare occasions, newborn conjunctivitis can develop into ophthalmia neonatorum, a serious form of pink eye. Thus, immediate treatment is necessary to prevent long-term vision damage in these cases. However, most hospitals are required to apply antibiotic ointment to a newborn's eyes in an effort to prevent and avoid potentially serious eye infections.

If you or your child experiences pink eye symptoms, make an appointment or drop by a CareWell Urgent Care location. The health care professionals at CareWell will help you get the treatment you need to keep the whole family healthy.

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