This time of year usually means taking care of sunburns and skinned knees, but don’t forget to watch out for pink eye during the summer months.
Although you might think more of pink eye traditionally occurring during the school year, with kids in close quarters at events such as camps, day care and swimming pools, it is easy for pink eye to be spread around.
Conjunctivitis (the medical term for pink eye) is a disease that causes swelling, itching, burning and redness of the conjunctiva, the protective membrane that lines the eyelids and covers exposed areas of the white of the eye. As most parents know, it is incredibly contagious. But perhaps you didn’t know that it can be caused by a number of different things: bacterial or viral infection, allergies, environmental irritants (like chlorine from a swimming pool), contact lens products, or eye drops.
Determining how you (or your child) got pink eye is the key to taking the necessary steps to treating it. Most cases in the summer months are due to allergies, and eye drops like Alaway can usually clear symptoms effectively. Antibacterial drops are also available through prescription for goopy bacterial infections. Viral infections are tougher to treat and may last for 10-14 days before resolving. Thankfully, conjunctivitis is usually painless, rarely harms vision and most cases clear up in about a week. Because it is highly contagious, hand washing every time the infected eye is touched must be done to reduce the chance of spread to another person.
As Ophthalmologist Thomas Henderson, M.D. advises, “Viral conjunctivitis in some cases results in a long lasting, annoying residual phase with gritty blurry vision for many months. Conjunctivitis associated with contact lens wear should be considered a potentially blinding infection until an ophthalmologist has seen the eye and made sure that the eyesight is not endangered by a severe bacterial corneal ulceration. If you are concerned at all, it is better to be seen and treated properly than not treated at all.”