Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a common medical condition characterized by redness of the eyes. The effected eyes often have discharge that may cause the eyes to be pasted shut after the person has been sleeping. Pink eye is especially common among children. Parents often need to know what to do for pink eye.
Pink eye is usually caused by a viral infection. Medicated eye drops that are prescribed for pink eye only help pink eye that has been caused by a bacterial infection instead of a viral infection. Eye drops and ointments for pink eye have been problematic since the container can become contaminated.
If the medication container becomes contaminated, administering the medication could actually prolong the condition by reinfecting the eye. Because of the risk of contamination, the fact that pink eye generally goes away on its own, and the ineffectiveness of prescriptions for viral pink eye, many doctors have stopped prescribing medication for pink eye. However, some schools and workplaces require that a person is treated by a doctor before returning to school or work since pink eye is contagious.
Instead of prescribed medication, home treatment for pink eye includes keeping the eye clean and preventing the spread of pink eye to others. Special care must be taken to prevent the spread of pink eye to other members of the household. If a person with pink eye rubs their eyes and touches an item, someone else can get pink eye by touching that item and touching their eyes. In this way, pink eye can spread easily.
A person who has pink eye should not share towels with anyone else during the infection. Frequent hand washing of the person with pink eye and others in the household can help prevent the spread of pink eye. Because eyes infected with pink eye may itch or burn, the person with pink eye may rub the eyes much more than usual. Any time people with pink eye catch themselves rubbing their eyes, they should immediately wash their hands to decrease the chance of contaminating items they touch.
Keeping the eyes clean can help the person with pink eye feel more comfortable. Cleaning away any discharge is considered helpful in preventing the spread of pink eye and clearing the infection. When cleaning the eyes, a clean cotton ball or tissue moistened with warm water should be used for each eye and discarded immediately afterward. Contact lenses and eye makeup should not be used during an outbreak of pink eye.