Eye Health

Updated 30 September 2013

How to deal with pink eye

When children go back to school, cases of a highly contagious infection called pink eye (conjunctivitis) are always likely to rise.

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With children back in school, cases of a highly contagious infection called pink eye (conjunctivitis) are likely to rise, an expert says.

"This common medical condition is around all year. Since it can spread so easily it's more common when school is back is session and kids are in close contact and touching similar surfaces," Dr Khalilah Babino, an urgent care physician at Loyola University Health System, said in a Loyola news release.

Pinkeye is a hassle for students, parents and teachers, the release noted. The condition occurs when the conjunctiva – a membrane that lines the inner surface of the eyelids and white portions of the eye – become red and swollen due to inflammation.

"Contrary to popular belief pink eye is not always due to a bacterial infection. It can also be caused by viruses, allergens and irritants. These types of conjunctivitis will typically resolve spontaneously without additional treatment," Babino said.

But she noted that bacterial conjunctivitis is extremely contagious and can quickly spread through a household or classroom.

"Bacterial conjunctivitis can be the result of infection from one of several bacterial organisms. Transmission is from person to person contact, secretions from an affected person or infected surfaces. If you suspect you have this type of infection it's best to see your medical provider as soon as possible," Babino said.

Tips for pink eye

She offered the following tips for preventing and dealing with bacterial pink eye:

  • Wash your hands frequently with warm soapy water for at least 15 to 20 seconds each time.
  • Use alcohol sanitizer when water and soap are not available.
  • Avoid eye make-up during an infection and throw out any used eye make-up, as it probably is contaminated.
  • Take out contact lenses and wear glasses instead until the infection is cleared.
  • Thoroughly clean your contact lens case and throw out disposable contacts.
  • Avoid touching your eyes with your fingers – this is how conjunctivitis is commonly transmitted from one eye to the other Avoid school or work until you have had at least 24 hours of treatment with antibiotics

More information

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has more about pink eye.

 

 

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Optometrist

Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg and is currently practising at Tygerberg Academic Hospital in Cape Town. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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