Giving pinkeye the stink-eye

The other day, I made the mistake of thinking that my kids had not been sick enough to warrant a trip to the doctor in several months.  A few hours later, I was sitting in the pediatrician’s office with my daughter who was leaking goopy stuff out of her eye. Apparently my internal monologue jinxed me.

I knew what it was before the doctor said it — pinkeye, AKA conjunctivitis. One of the most common, and annoying, ailments kids can pick up at school and daycare.

“Pinkeye caused by bacteria or a virus is very contagious and spreads easily from person to person,” notes pediatrician Mark Pyle, MD, at Banner Health Center in Verrado (Buckeye, Ariz.) in an Ask the Expert Column. “This is particularly problematic for children because they often rub their eyes and then touch other people or surfaces, which quickly passes the infection to others.”

When my older sons had pinkeye, it was pretty easy to quarantine them in their room to keep them from spreading it to the rest of us, as they were old enough to play with their toys and occupy themselves. I kept hand sanitizer outside their door to make sure we did not carry the pinkeye germs with us when we came in and out.

But it was not as easy to tell my two-year-old daughter why she could not be around the rest of the family. It was just not happening with her.

Most pinkeye is treated with antibiotics in the eye – another fun thing for us when on the second day our daughter ran away yelling that her eye felt better and SHE DID NOT need medicine. It was definitely a two-parent job.

Despite enduring her toddler tantrums, we were fortunately able to keep it from spreading to the rest of the family.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer several tips to keep pinkeye at bay if one person in your household brings it home:

  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water.
  • If you do not have soap and water available, use a hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol.
  • Wash the discharge from around the infected eye several times a day (washing hands before and after, of course).
  • Wash all linens used by the infected person.
  • If the infected person uses eyeglasses, clean often.

“If you notice your child or a family member has developed symptoms of pinkeye, please call your pediatrician or family practitioner for advice,” Dr. Pyle states in his column. “While pinkeye is generally not serious, it is important that it be treated promptly with the appropriate remedy.”

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