How to care for children with pink eye

A newborn could get pink eye if the mother had a sexually transmitted infection.

A newborn could get pink eye if the mother had a sexually transmitted infection at the time of delivery

What you need to know:

  • Knowing the cause of pink eye is the first step to taking care of your child.
  • Teach your child to keep their hands clean and to avoid touching their eyes.
  • practice good hygiene by washing your hands often and keeping your home clean.
  • If your child develops pink eye, take them to the doctor to get the appropriate treatment.

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the membranes lining the eyelids and covering the eyeball (conjunctiva).

The condition starts with irritation and redness around your child's eyes, which gradually turns into swelling of both eyes. Finally, the whites of the eyes will become pinkish due to the inflammation.

Types of Pink eye

Viral pink eye: This is the most common form of conjunctivitis. Viral pink eye can be caused by several viruses, the most common being the adenovirus and herpes virus.

Bacterial pink eye: This form of conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria. The most common bacteria that causes pink eye are Streptococcus pneumoniae, staphylococcus aureus, and Haemophilus influenzae.

Allergic pink eye: This form of conjunctivitis is caused by an allergic reaction to something your child has come in contact with. The most common allergens are pet dander, pollen, dust mites, and certain foods.

A new born could get pink eye if the mother had a sexually transmitted infection at the time of delivery.

It is possible to identify the type of pink eye your child has. You will often see a yellowish discharge coming from the child's eyes with viral and bacterial forms. This does not happen with allergic pink eye and there usually isn't any discharge at all.

Signs and symptoms of pink eye in children

  • Red and swollen eyelids
  • Eye pain
  • Itchiness
  • Light sensitivity (squinting, closing one or both eyes when your child is in the sunlight)
  • Pus discharge
  • Watery eyes
  • Dry, crusty eyelids

Treating the pink eye

Treatment depends on what type of conjunctivitis your child is suffering from.

  1. Viral pink eye: There are no medications for viral conjunctivitis. Treatment can be done at home using over-the-counter saline drops and ointments. You may also want to try placing an ice pack wrapped in a clean cloth on your child's eye to help reduce the pain and swelling.
  2. Bacterial pink eye: If bacterial conjunctivitis is diagnosed, you will need a prescription from your doctor, which is usually an antibiotic ointment or drops. You can also try the over-the-counter remedies.
  3. Allergic pink eye: The best way to treat allergic conjunctivitis is by identifying and avoiding the allergen. If this is not possible, your doctor may prescribe antihistamine drops or ointment to relieve the symptoms.

New-born with pink eye: Treatment for a new-born baby would depend on if the mother had a sexually transmitted infection during delivery. If she did, the baby would be given antibiotics. If there was no infection, treatment might involve using saline drops and ointment.

Preventing pink eye in children

  • Wash your hands often and keep your child's hands clean
  • Avoid touching your child's eyes
  • Teach your child not to share personal items such as towels, napkins, etc.
  • Keep your home clean and free of dust and pet dander
  • Do not let your child go outside when there is a lot of pollen in the air

How the pink eye spreads

The infection is spread through contact with discharge from the eye. This can be from coughing and sneezing or touching the eyes and then touching other objects or people. It can also be spread through contact with infected surfaces, such as doorknobs, handles, phones, etc.

Kids spread the pink eye by sharing swimming pools, towels, and playing with toys.


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