By Dr. Sarah Keep
“Mom! Something’s wrong with my eye!” When you hear those words, you know it probably isn’t going to end well. A red, itchy eye could mean a variety of things, but the most common eye infection among children is pink eye, which can be extremely contagious.
Here are 10 things you need to know about pink eye:
- The medical name for pink eye is conjunctivitis, which is inflammation of the thin, transparent layer covering the surface of the inner eyelid and a portion of the front of the eye.There are many types of conjunctivitis, but the most common are infectious, allergic and chemical.
- Infectious conjunctivitis is the type that’s most often referred to as pink eye. It is very contagious, and can be caused by either a virus or bacteria.
- If it’s caused by bacteria, pink eye can usually be treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment.
- If it’s caused by a virus, antibiotics will not work. The only way to treat this type of pink eye is to let the body’s immune system fight it off. Eye drops may be prescribed to relieve discomfort.
- The classic symptom of pink eye is when the eyelids are stuck shut in the morning.
- If the eye discharge is thick yellow or green, it’s most likely a bacterial infection.
- If the eye discharge is thin and clear, it’s often a virus or allergic reaction.
- When your child gets pink eye, you should take them to a Doctor of Optometry to get the proper diagnosis and treatment. You do not need a referral.
- You don’t have to pay to see an optometrist for pink eye. Alberta Health Care covers the cost of treatment for eye infections and injuries.
If it’s pink eye, you’ll probably have to keep your child home from school to prevent it from spreading to the other kids. Everyone in the house should wash their hands frequently, and avoid sharing things like washcloths, pillows and eye drops.
For more information about pink eye, and to find a Doctor of Optometry near you, visit http://www.optometrists.ab.ca/find-an-optometrist.