The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler, and the streets are getting busier. It is back to school season. As the school year begins, health care providers and school teachers see an increase in pink eye diagnosis. Those who are at a particularly high risk for contracting pink eye include school children, teachers and day care employees.
The telltale symptom of conjunctivitis is red eye(s) and although it is a fairly common condition, it is important to be able to differentiate between viral and bacterial conjunctivitis, as treatment depends on the type that is contracted.
Viral conjunctivitis is very contagious and may be spread by contact, a cough or a sneeze. One or both eyes may be affected and symptoms include itchy, watery eyes. Typically, pink eye caused by a virus runs its course over several days and, in most cases, no medical treatment is required. A home remedy of applying a wet washcloth to the eye several times a day can relieve symptoms.
On the other hand, bacterial conjunctivitis, also contagious, is more commonly spread by direct contact with infected hands or items that have touched the eye. It may only be present in one eye and is often accompanied by a thick, yellow or greenish-yellow discharge in the corner of the eye. Individuals may spike a slight fever, experience minor changes in vision, be more sensitive to light and they may feel like there is sandpaper in the eye(s). For bacterial conjunctivitis, antibiotic eye drops are the main course of treatment.
Of course, occasionally it is difficult to tell the type of conjunctivitis you have by symptoms alone. See your health care provider if there is moderate to severe pain in your eye(s), blurred vision, an increase in sensitivity to light, pus like discharge, intense redness or if symptoms get worse or do not improve.
With hundreds of viruses out there, the goal for many school children is to protect themselves from becoming infected in the first place. One of the most common ways people catch colds, flu and pink eye is by rubbing their eyes or nose after a virus has gotten on their hands.
Hand washing is the simplest step to help defend against the spread of pink eye and many other illnesses. Viruses can easily become airborne with coughing and sneezing, therefore, people with a cough or a sneeze should use a clean tissue to cough or sneeze into and then wash their hands.
While the first step in prevention is proper hygiene, the second step is to prevent infection through immunizations – including the flu vaccine. Everyone over the age of 6 months can get a flu shot and most children over the age of 2 can get the nasal spray version.
Kelli Christensen, MD, Primary Care Physician at Portneuf Medical Center, shares, “While vaccines may cause minor side effects such as low-grade fever, flu-like body aches, fatigue, or even mild local reactions at the injection site, most vaccines are safe to administer to most people. These symptoms may simply be the result of your body’s immune system working in response to the vaccine, rather than a true adverse reaction.”
She adds the following are also not contraindications to receiving a vaccine:
-Current of recent mild illness, with or without low-grade fever
-Current or recent antibiotic treatment
-Previous mild to moderate local tenderness, redness, swelling, or fever less than 104.9 F after any vaccination
-Family history of adverse reactions to an immunization
As children head back to school this fall, these few steps will help to keep your children happy and healthy.
- Teach your children to wash their hands frequently
- Schedule a wellness visit with your primary care provider to receive recommended immunizations
- Eat a healthy balanced diet and get plenty of sleep
- If your child catches a cold or contracts pink eye have them stay home, rest and recover
To schedule a same day appointment or to schedule your child’s wellness visit, call Portneuf Primary Care at (208) 239-3815.