Eye infections are somewhat a rite of passage for most families with young children. Thankfully, the telltale red eye is no cause for concern. With proper treatment, the infection should clear up within a few days. Always see your child’s doctor and get advised on a course of treatment.
Causes of Eye Infections
Pediatric eye infections are very common and are usually caused by the same bacteria and viruses responsible for the common cold, the flu, ear infections, and other childhood illnesses. Eye infections are highly contagious and are usually spread fairly quickly among children at school or childcare centers.
The most common eye infection in children and teens is conjunctivitis (pinkeye), which is an inflammation of the white portion of the eye. Newborns can also develop eye infections during birth from exposure to bacteria in the birth canal.
Prevention of Eye Infections
Eye infections are highly contagious and can easily spread between family members. Wash the infected individual’s blankets, towels, and sheets frequently in hot water apart from the rest of the household to avoid contamination. Avoid direct contact with an infected person’s eyes and carefully wash your hands after applying medication.
If your child is prone to frequent eye infections, you may need to take some additional measures in order to prevent reinfection. Emphasize personal hygiene, such as frequent handwashing and avoiding touching the eyes.
Symptoms of Eye Infections
The most common signs of pediatric eye infection include redness, inflammation, discharge, swollen eyelids, dry eyes, light sensitivity, itching, and pain. Children may complain that it feels like they have something in their eye. Your healthcare provider can easily identify eye infections through an office visit or virtual visit.
Occasionally, symptoms of pinkeye can be due to environmental allergens and not an infection. If your child’s eye inflammation is due to allergies, other signs will typically be present, such as sneezing or hives. In addition, allergic pinkeye will typically occur in both eyes. In contrast, infectious pinkeye is usually confined to one eye, although it can be easily spread to both eyes through contact.
Treatment of Eye Infections
Typically, viral eye infections will go away on their own without any treatment. Bacterial eye infections may require treatment with antibiotic eye drops or ointment to clear them up. Atypical swelling, redness, and fever may signal a spreading of the infection and could require additional treatment.
Fever-reducing medications can also be given in order to ease discomfort. Cool or warm compresses are an effective home remedy to clean discharge and ease eye pain.
Special care should be taken if your child wears contact lenses. Typically, doctors will recommend they be avoided until the infection is gone or the use of disposables throughout the duration of the infection.
The swift treatment and prevention of an eye infection is key to avoiding a bout of pinkeye in your household. When in doubt, seek medical care and be extra cautious with personal hygiene to avoid the spread of the infection within your family.