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8 Ways to Prevent Pink Eye

A case of pink eye can be painful, unsightly and frustrating. Luckily some fairly straightforward preventive steps can minimize your risks.

Yesterday's Daily Tip discussed the symptoms of pink eye and who is most vulnerable. Today, we list simple ways to prevent this highly contagious infection of the eyelid and eyeball:

  1. Wash your hands well, often, and always before and after applying antibiotic drops.
  2. Don't touch your eyes with your hands.
  3. If being treated with antibiotic drops, never let the antibiotic bottle touch the affected eye.
  4. Use a new towel and washcloth every day.
  5. Change pillowcases often.
  6. Throw away any eye makeup used while infected, including mascara.
  7. Don't share cosmetics, washcloths and eye products with others.
  8. Keep infected children out of school or daycare until a few days after treatment begins or the infection clears up.

While viral pink eye will resolve on its own in a few weeks without treatment, it can be difficult to distinguish between viral and bacterial conjunctivitis.

Consequently, many doctors prescribe antibiotic eye drops to anyone with pink eye - the antibiotics won't be effective against viral infections, but they may help prevent a secondary bacterial infection. With bacterial conjunctivitis, the antibiotic eye drops usually cause symptoms to clear up within a few days. Pink eye caused by allergies is usually treated with allergy medications and eye drops that relieve itchy eyes.

Worried You Have Pink Eye?

If your eyes are red, itchy or crusty, you may have pink eye. Find out some common symptoms of pink eye, as well as what can cause it.

If you have itchy, red eyes that seem worse than is typically experienced with seasonal allergies, you may have pink eye. Also known as infectious conjunctivitis, pink eye is an inflammation of the membrane (called the conjunctiva) that lines the eyelid and eyeball.

Pink eye can be due to an allergic reaction to pollen, dust or other foreign material in the eye, such as contact lens solution; a bacterial infection, which is more common among children than adults; or viruses, particularly those associated with colds or a sore throat, as well as other childhood illnesses. All types of viral or bacterial pink eye are highly contagious.

The symptoms of pink eye can affect one or both eyes and include:

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • A feeling or grittiness or having something stuck in the eye
  • Tearing and discharge (yellow color is often associated with a bacterial cause)
  • Crusts that form on the eyelids overnight

 

Young children are the most likely to get pink eye, as their rambunctious activity in small spaces provides the perfect circumstances for passing it around. Other people at higher risk for developing pink eye include those with allergies to airborne pollen and those who wear contact lenses, particularly extended-wear brands, as both these groups tend to touch and rub their eyes more frequently.

If you or your children experience any of the symptoms above, visit your physician for an evaluation and diagnosis. To learn how to treat and prevent pink eye, read Monday's blog post.