Written by: Miami Children’s Hospital
“Pink eye” is one of the most common eye diseases affecting children. Some are highly contagious and can lead to serious vision problems. Therefore, it’s important for parents to understand how to prevent this condition and when to seek treatment.
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection on the inner surface of the eyelid, which covers the white part of the eye. It can also be the result of an allergic reaction to cosmetics, smoke, chlorine in swimming pools or other substances.
Typically, children with conjunctivitis experience an itchy, burning or “gritty” feeling in one or both eyes. Other symptoms include excessive tearing, a discharge from the eyes, swollen eyelids or a pink discoloration to the white of the eye – the reason conjunctivitis is nicknamed pink eye.
One of the best ways to ease these uncomfortable symptoms is to apply a warm, wet compress to the eye. Just soak a clean cloth in warm water, wring it out and put it over your child’s eye. Sometimes a cool compress does a better job of reducing the discomfort. If only one eye is affected, be sure that the compress doesn’t come into contact with the other eye – otherwise, you might spread the infection.
You may want to try flushing your child’s eye with a saline solution or using over-the-counter eye drops such as “artificial tears.” Lubricating eye drops, such as those used by contact lens wearers, may be helpful with allergic conjunctivitis, since they may wash away the substances causing the allergy.
If your child is in severe discomfort, see your doctor right away.
Otherwise, you may want to wait a couple of days to see if compresses and “flooding” the eye seem to help. But if conjunctivitis persists for a couple of days and does not seem to be getting better, make an appointment with your pediatrician to help determine the cause and the proper course of treatment.
Tips to control pink eye
While pink eye usually responds well to treatment, it is important to prevent it from affecting other members of the family. Here are several tips to follow once an
infection has been diagnosed:
• Don’t touch your eyes with your hands
• Wash your hands several times a day, and make sure to be thorough • Don’t share towels or washcloths with other family members
• Wash your towels and washcloths daily
• Get rid of the teen’s eye cosmetics, particularly mascara
• Don’t share personal eye-care items like bottles of saline solution
• Don’t wear contact lenses until the infection is over
• Throw away any old contact lenses, cleaning solution or lens cases that may have been contaminated
These preventive steps, along with your doctor’s recommendations, should help keep pink eye in check and avoid a recurrence. Be sure to complete the entire course of treatment and wait for your doctor to give the “all clear” before resuming your normal routine.
Since conjunctivitis has the potential to cause serious vision problems, parents need to take this condition seriously. If home remedies are not working, call your pediatrician right away for diagnosis and treatment.