As a parent, you probably already know a little about pinkeye. It’s a very common condition amongst children, with approximately 3 million medically diagnosed cases every year. You probably also know that pink eye (also known as conjunctivitis) is highly contagious, and is often spread in daycare and school settings where children are gathered together.
Conjunctivitis comes in different forms. There is the viral form, which occurs due to the transmission of a virus. There is bacterial conjunctivitis, which is due to bacterial infection. Finally, there is allergic conjunctivitis, which comes about due to specific allergies. Any of these form of conjunctivitis will cause similar symptoms.
So what are those symptoms?
Generally, pinkeye will produce minimal pain in one or both eyes, obvious redness in one or both eyes (hence the term ‘pinkeye’), minimal sensitivity to light, and discharge. Visual acuity is normal. These symptoms will generally worsen over time, and will stay around longer, in severe cases of viral conjunctivitis.
It’s worth noting, however, that in many cases, pinkeye is so mild that medical treatment isn’t necessary. Over-the-counter remedies, such as cold packs to bring down inflammation, and artificial tears to treat dryness, can be used to alleviate symptoms. In such mild cases, symptoms will clear up on their own after a few days.
Knowing what kind of conjunctivitis your child has, however, requires professional medical help. Viral conjunctivitis often lasts longer as eye discomfort may persist for up to 10 days. Taking antibiotics for viral conjunctivitis will have no effect (aside from the normal side effects of antibiotic medications), since antibiotics are only effective in treating bacterial infections.
In terms of bacterial conjunctivitis, antibiotics are sometimes prescribed and sometimes not. Again, the condition is often very mild, and will clear up on its own without the use of antibiotics. In other cases, antibiotic creams, ointments, or capsules may be used in order to eliminate the bacterial infection. In moderate to severe cases, this form of treatment will also help to prevent the spread of pinkeye to others.
In the case of allergic conjunctivitis, the specific allergen that is causing the reaction must be identified with the help of an allergist, and exposure to that allergen must be minimized or eliminated. Certain animals and pollens are often found to be the culprit, and the condition goes away (and stays away) when exposure to these allergens is eliminated.
Urgent care for pinkeye
If you think your child has pinkeye, your local urgent care center is a good option for receiving an accurate diagnosis and the correct treatment. Because there is no appointment necessary, and because there are minimal wait times at urgent care, parents and children are able to have conjunctivitis treated quickly and easily. It is possible, in very mild cases, that a doctor or nurse will recommend treating symptoms for a few days to see if the condition clears up on its own, before more aggressive types of treatment are used.