When pink’s not pretty
Pinkeye – conjunctivitis is the medical term — is inflammation and redness of the clear coverings of the whites of the eyes and the inner part of the eyelids. Pinkeye is most often caused by a virus or by a bacterial infection, but it can also flare from allergies or exposure to some chemicals.
Viral and bacterial pinkeye are common and, unfortunately, wickedly infectious. It can zip through daycare pretty quickly. It’s spread mostly by poor hand washing and sharing of towels and toys. Kids who wake up with crusty eyelids and flaming red eyes need to stay out of school for a day or two while treatment is started. Pinkeye caused by allergies or exposure to chemicals is not infectious.
Symptoms can include: puffy, swollen eyelids; very red, irritated whites of the eye: oozing of clear or yellowish liquid from the eye; crusty discharge that often seems to have glued the eyelid together over night; sensitivity to light can sometimes occur. (If you see it in just one eye, have it checked out right away, but give it a day or two and it will probably spread to both eyes.)
Treatment of pinkeye can include antibacterial eye drops, ointments and occasionally pills. You’ll need to keep up with the laundry while treating pinkeye because you should use a clean wash cloth or towel for each eye every time you clean your eyes. (Always wipe your eyes from the inside of the eye to the outside.) This sometimes helps prevent spreading the condition from one eye to the other (good luck with that) and certainly to others in the family. You’ll want to wash your child’s hands and your hands often and change your child’s pillow case every day. Your doc will tell you when it’s OK to send your child back to school or daycare. And Mom, if you’re unfortunate enough to pick this up, too, be sure to toss out any makeup you have recently used that might be contaminated.
The good news is that while it looks super nasty, this common condition is rarely serious, easily treated and doesn’t cause long-term damage to the eye. The trick is to catch and treat it early. Persistent pinkeye may be the sign of some underlying disease, so it’s important to make sure it goes away and let your doc know if it returns.