Although pink eye gets the reputation for being most prevalent in children, you may be surprised to know that it affects thousands of adults each year as well. So, what is this common infection and how can it be treated? All of these questions and more will be answered in the following paragraphs. Let’s start with the most basic:
#1: What is pink eye?
Pink eye is the inflammation and infection of the conjunctiva (a transparent membrane) that lines a section of the eyeball and the eyelid. When the blood vessels in this area get infected, they become more salient – and that’s what causes the pink or red tone to the white part of the eye. Usually, the infection begins in one eye and eventually spreads to the other.
#2: Why does pink eye occur often in children?
Children are more likely to contract pink eye because they often get respiratory tract infections and colds from being around children in settings like daycare and elementary school. Newborn babies can also contract pink eye through making contact with their mother during birth.
#3: What are the most common causes of pink eye?
One of the most common causes of pink eye in children is bacterial conjunctivitis. The main bacteria strains that cause it are H. influenza and S. pneumonia. Viral conjunctivitis is another main cause and is sometimes accompanied by a sore throat.
Viruses or bacteria in the eye; dryness from overexposure to the wind and the sun; exposure to chemicals, fumes, and smoke; and even allergies most often cause the infection in adults. Both viral and bacterial pink eye is contagious and can be spread very easily through poor hand washing, or sharing objects like a washcloth or towel.
#4: How do I know I have pink eye?
Many people experience the symptoms of pink eye but aren’t aware that’s what it is. Some of the most common symptoms include eye redness, itching or burning, swollen eyelids, eye drainage, and mild sensitivity to light. Others get the unpleasant feeling that there’s a foreign body in their eye.
#5: How can I make sure I don’t pass it on to someone else?
If you or your child has pink eye, you shouldn’t go to daycare, school, or work until symptoms improve. If bacteria caused the infection, you can usually return to school or work within 24 hours of beginning an antibiotic treatment. If it was caused by a virus, you can usually return back to school or work within 3-5 days. The recovery period for this type is a bit longer because medicine isn’t used to treat it, so it’s important to avoid spreading it to others.
#6: How is pink eye treated?
If you have pink eye caused by bacteria, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotic eye drops. If you have viral conjunctivitis, unfortunately, there is no treatment. Instead, it has to run its course that can take 2-3 weeks – however, your symptoms will gradually improve during this time. Finally, if your pink eye is caused by allergies, your doctor may prescribe a variety of eye drops including antihistamines, decongestants, or anti-inflammatory drops.
#7: Are there home treatments that can help with pink eye?
To help reduce your pain and keep your eye free of drainage, there are a few steps you can take. If you’re a contact lens wearer, remove them right away and wear glasses until your symptoms are gone. You should also make sure to thoroughly clean your contacts and the case that they’re stored in.
To ease your pain, consider using a cold or warm compress. This is a personal preference so you can choose what feels best to you. If the pinkeye is caused by allergies, a cold compress will usually feel best. If caused by an infection, a warm compress may best help reduce swelling and redness. But, be sure to use a separate compress for each eye so you don’t spread the infection from one eye to the other.
Finally, wipe from the inside out when cleaning your eye by starting with the area by your nose. If you use a tissue or other disposable material, make sure you put it in the trash as soon as you’re done using it. Make sure to wash your hands immediately after this to prevent it from spreading.
#8: How to I avoid pink eye in the future?
Luckily, there are several precautionary measures you can take to avoid pink eye down the road. Here are a few of the most important:
- Don’t share eye makeup, eye medicine, contact lens equipment, containers, or solutions.
- Don’t use makeup until the infection is completely clear. Doing so will run the risk of reinfection. If a virus or bacteria caused your pink eye, throw away your old makeup and buy new.
- Wash your hands before and after looking into someone’s eye for a foreign object or helping someone apply eye makeup.
- Don’t share pillows, handkerchiefs, or towels with others.
- Wear glasses or other eye protection to prevent irritation from wind, heat, and cold.