Conjunctivitis is so gross. One of my best friends was out running once in the evening and a bug flew into her eye. The reward for her hard work was a red, swollen, pus-oozing eye for about a week-and-half afterwards. Ewww…. I’ve often joked with her since about how “bad exercise” can be for you (“…remember that time you went for a run and it gave you pink eye? Har har”). But seriously now…
Most people have had it at some time or another. It is uncomfortable and really ugly. There might be crusting of the eyelids in the morning on waking, the white of the eye itself can be quite red and it might make the eye(s) over-sensitive to light. Symptoms can last anywhere between 2 days, to 2 weeks.
So there are basically 2 types of conjunctivitis,
- Infective (caused by a bacteria or a virus)
The first type is SUPER DOOPER contagious. You have to WASH, WASH, WASH your hands (with warm water and SOAP!) and be extremely careful with your hygiene or else you will infect others. Do not share tissues, pillowcases, towels, or eye drops with others. You should keep your kids home from school/kindergarten until the discharge from the eyes has resolved.
If the conjunctivitis is viral, one or both eyes will be affected and the eye will be itchy, red and watery. This condition is self-limiting – that is, it will eventually resolve on its own. Simple eye cleaning measures will help (see below).
If it is caused by a bacteria, then the conjunctivitis usually affects both eyes (although it might start in just one eye). There is often a pustular discharge and the eye will feel like it has sand in it. It usually needs treatment with some antibiotic drops (eg Chlorsig eye drops) that can be prescribed by your doctor. There are some antibiotic drops that you can buy over-the-counter at the pharmacy/chemist that can be used for milder infections of the eye and eyelid (eg Brolene drops) – but these are not as effective as the ones you obtain on a prescription… might be worth a try though for a minor infection and if you don’t have time to get to your GP.
*** edited to add: A pharmacist friend has just informed me that Chlorsig can now be bought over-the-counter at the chemist!! It is a S3 drug (“Schedule 3 – pharmacist only”) meaning that the pharmacist will need to come and have a chat to you about how to use it etc – but how good it THAT?!
In allergic conjunctivitis, the eyes are itchy, puffy/swollen and watery and usually both affected. There is usually a history of other allergies or hay fever, sneezing and a clear runny/itchy nose. Treatment is either an antihistamine type eye drop (eg Naphcon-A, Zyrtec eye drops) or an oral antihistamine (eg Claratyne (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine) ).
All types of conjunctivitis will benefit from what we call “eye toilet.” Despite how it sounds, this has nothing to do with sticking your head in the loo.
Using warm water to soak a cotton ball/make up remover pad, gently wipe the eye in one direction, once and the throw the ball out. Repeat until the crusting/pus/discharge from the eye is gone 3-4 times a day. Do not try to clean inside the eyelid – you could scratch the eye and do damage.
When should you go and see your doctor?
- If there is pus discharging from one or both eyes
- If your child has a fever (greater than or equal to 38 degrees) or is unwell
- If there is increasing swelling and redness of the eyelids and around the eye
- If the eye is painful
- If there is any problems with vision
Hope this post has been helpful for any of you out there dealing with this icky, sticky eye condition…
As always, please SHARE my post to spread the word about not spreading conjunctivitis
And until next time, stay well away from anyone who looks like they have a pink eye!!!!
xx Dr Megs
For more from Dr Megan Yap visit her blog – Kids Health Guru