Pink Eye!

12 01 2012

Evening time. Your little moppet is fed, bathed, and snuggled ‘neath her blanket. You bend to kiss her nose and then, because your mother did the same, you gently press your cheek against your child’s and exchange butterfly kisses.

This is also known as giving (or getting) the gift of pink eye.

In case you haven’t yet experienced it, pink eye is when your eye becomes pink or red because it’s irritated or inflamed.

We all have a thin membrane that covers the inside of our eyelids and the whites of our eyes – it’s called the conjunctiva. When it becomes inflamed or irritated, we have a case of conjunctivitis. Also known as pink eye.

Lots of non-infectious agents can irritate the conjunctiva and cause our eye to get pink. If we’re allergic to pollen or pet dander, that can give us pink eye. Sometimes the chlorine in pools will do the same.

We can also pick up a bacterial or viral infection that results in pink eye and is infectious, easily spreading person to person. That’s the one that is the gift of the butterfly kiss, should one of the eyes doing the kissing be infected.

Prevention is easy, mostly it’s about not touching your eyes with unclean hands and not sharing any items that have been near an infected person’s eye, such as pillowcases, towels, makeup. You get the idea.

If you have pink eye, do all of the above, and don’t use the same eye dropper or bottle on infected and uninfected eyes, as it’s a good way to ensure both of your eyes become infected. And, CDC says to stay out of swimming pools.

Treatment of conjunctivitis depends entirely on the cause of the irritation. If it’s viral, the symptoms are treated and antivirals may be used for severe cases.

Bacterial infections will probably receive antibiotics and treatment to alleviate the discomfort.

It’s best to check with your provider for specifics, and to make sure and revisit the clinic under these circumstances noted by CDC:

  • Conjunctivitis is accompanied by moderate to severe pain in the eye(s).
  • Conjunctivitis is accompanied by vision problems, such as sensitivity to light or blurred vision, that does not improve when any discharge that is present is wiped from the eye(s).
  • Conjunctivitis is accompanied by intense redness in the eye(s).
  • Conjunctivitis symptoms become worse or persist when a patient is suspected of having a severe form of viral conjunctivitis—for example, a type caused by herpes simplex virus or varicella-zoster virus (the cause of chickenpox and shingles).
  • Conjunctivitis occurs in a patient who is immunocompromised (has a weakened immune system) from HIV infection, cancer treatment, or other medical conditions or treatments.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis is being treated with antibiotics and does not begin to improve after 24 hours of treatment.

One of the best methods of disease prevention (and not just pink eye) is to keep our hands clean and not touch our noses, eyes, or mouth.

I have to confess that, although my teenager no longer tolerates butterfly kisses, my tweener loves them. As long as the whites of her eyes remain, well, white, we will share that bedtime ritual. But, I do perform a quick inspection as I’m leaning in, just in case.

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of littlenelly


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