My son woke up screaming. Running into his bedroom, I was shocked to see both his eyes matted shut with some crusty green stuff. “I can’t see, Mama!” I dashed to the bathroom for a moist, wet washrag and began removing the matter from his puffy pink lids. It was gross. It was pinkeye.
What is it? Pink Eye, or Conjunctivitis, is inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. While it is horrifyingly gruesome to look at, and can be painful for the sufferer, it is no more dangerous than a cold. While normally associated with the viral or bacterial infections that accompany it, pink eye can also be caused by irritants or allergies. With proper treatment and careful hygiene, you can nip it in the bud and get on with your life.
Where did it come from? Highly contagious among children (and adults), pink eye is spread by viruses or bacteria in much the same way colds and flus are shared. Coughing, sneezing, and sharing utensils are all effective ways to give it to your friends. (Two children playing a game of “Let’s Lick the TV Screen” can also spread it around.) It is important to note that pink eye from allergies or irritants is obviously not contagious. Unfortunately, we have never been lucky enough to get that kind of pink eye.
What does it look like? Gooey discharge from the eyes can be green, yellow, or white. The eyelids can swell to an alarming size and be pink and purple, as well as puffy. The eyeball itself can be rather red, as blood vessels tend to expand. Your young one may want to rub or scratch at the itchy, painful eye, but try to remind them that this only makes things worse! Not only will it aggravate the condition, but it makes their little hands a carrier for infecting others.
What do we do now? Once you have come to the conclusion that you might have pink eye, get to a doctor. Avoid contact with others until treatment has been started. Your child may be put on an oral antibiotic for any accompanying condition, such as an ear infection. More than likely, however, an antibiotic eye drop will be all that is needed to begin the healing process. Your doctor might suggest limited contact (no school) for 24 hours following the initial treatment.
What about me? It is very likely that you could get a bad case of pink eye simply from your child. Families with more than one kid will find that some of the kids may get it, and some may not. Practicing good hand-washing techniques and limiting contact between family members is always a good idea, and one that is vital in this situation.
If you have been lucky enough to avoid pink eye this season, celebrate! Knowing more about this inconvenient ailment, however, will make you better prepared for the day when someone you love gets it. Remember that it looks worse than it really is, and within a few days, your child will be back to normal and clear-eyed again!
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical treatment, advice, or diagnosis. Please remember to always seek the advice of a qualified physician or health professional with any questions you may have regarding any medical concerns.