If your child is in daycare or school, odds are they are going to come home with pink eye at some point. Little kids touch their eyes and touch everything else, and it’s almost impossible to keep pink eye from turning into an outbreak. Once your child brings it home, how do you keep other members of the household from getting it too, including yourself?
At Harlem VistaSite Eye Care in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Brittni Rodriguez, OD, and Sarah Quan, OD, will diagnose pink eye and recommend appropriate treatment to eradicate it while you work on preventing the spread.
Pink eye basics
Pink eye, which is more properly known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is a thin, transparent membrane that covers your eyes and lines your eyelids. Small blood vessels in the conjunctiva can become inflamed, causing redness and irritation.
The most common type of pink eye is the viral kind, which spreads easily. Less common types of pink eye are caused by allergies or environmental irritants. If your child has pink eye, the best thing to do is assume it’s highly contagious and act accordingly.
Keeping pink eye from spreading
First, know how to recognize pink eye,. Normally, you’ll see your child wake up with a crust sealing their eyes shut. When the crust is removed, the eyes will be red and puffy-looking. This can be made worse if your child has been rubbing at their eyes.
Avoid community spread
Absolutely don’t send your kid to daycare or school with pink eye. They will just infect their classmates and get reinfected in turn, and you’ll be dealing with pink eye for that much longer. Make some sort of arrangement to keep your child away from other children, just as you would if they had a cold or the flu.
Keep pink eye from spreading to the other eye
Usually by the time you notice it, pink eye is already in both eyes. However, if only one eye is infected, you may be able to keep it from spreading to the other. Use a different soft cloth to clean each eye, and apply a cool compress to reduce swelling. You can get your child an eyepatch to prevent them from touching that eye.
Prevent the rest of the family from getting pink eye
Make sure your child with pink eye has stuff that only they use while they have pink eye, this includes bedding, pillows, clothes, towels, washcloths, toys, and eye drops.
Change your child's pillowcase every day until the infection is gone. Make sure to have a fresh stack of clean cloths they can use to wipe their eyes and have a designated bag to put the cloths in for laundering after a single use.
Warn your child about touching their eyes, and be vigilant to help them stop themselves if needed. Now is a great time to focus on frequent handwashing with plenty of soap. Hand sanitizer can be a help, too.
Though most cases of pink eye clear up within a few days, if it lingers, gets worse, or seems to disappear and reappear over and over, it’s time to seek professional help. The team at Harlem VistaSite Eye Care can identify if your child’s conjunctivitis is viral or bacterial and prescribe the right course of treatment.
To schedule an appointment, call 646-453-6506, or book an appointment online today.