conjunctivitis in children

Conjunctivitis in children is a pretty common occurrence. When kids start preschool and other social activities, they get exposed to many sources of infection, viruses and parasites, among others.

You can expect them to deal with conjunctivitis a few times during their childhood, since this is a highly contagious problem. You've probably heard about (and suffered from) conjunctivitis so many times, but do you know exactly what it is? Conjunctivitis, the so-called 'pinkeye', is the inflammation of the membrane that covers the white part of the eyes and the lining of the eyelids. It's generally caused by an infection, either bacterial or viral, or an allergic reaction, but it can also be related to blocked tear duct, the effect of chemicals or the presence of a foreign body in the eyes.

Stop rubbing your eyes and learn the best tips to cope with conjunctivitis in toddlers by reading the following post.

Conjunctivitis in children: What are its symptoms?

Conjunctivitis in children shows different symptoms depending on what it's caused by. These are the usual reactions according to the type of conjunctivitis: 

  • Bacterial conjunctivitis: it tends to affect both eyes, which may get red and feel gritty. The bacterial infection is characterised by a yellowish discharge that, when it gets dry overnight, makes the eyelids stick together.
  • Viral conjunctivitis: leaving exceptions aside, it's usually focused on one eye, also red and gritty, and it's accompanied by other flu-like symptoms.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis: obviously, it's part of an allergic reaction, so it comes along with symptoms, such as a runny and itchy nose, sneezing and breathing difficulties. Eyes get extra watery.
  • Blocked tear duct: the kids' eyes get irritated and may have mucous discharge as well, because tears can't drain properly.
  • Chemical effects: it's defined by severe pain in the affected eye or eyes.
  • Eye injuries: redness, tearing and irritation may bother your toddler. Sometimes it's not easy to tell whether a foreign body is responsible for such a pain.

How can I treat conjunctivitis in children?

A doctor can easily diagnose conjunctivitis in children through a routine medical exam. The treatment will be based, again, on the type of conjunctivitis that your little one is suffering from. If he's got a bacterial infection, you'll need to apply an antibiotic ointment or drops on your child's eyes. In case your son or daughter is still a toddler, it may be easier for you to use the ointment, which you have to run along his or her lower eyelids, rather than the drops (you need more aim to make them fall in the corner of the eye). Also, make sure you wash your kid's eyes a few times a day in order to remove dried discharge. The doctor will tell you how long the treatment should last.

If your kid happens to have a viral conjunctivitis, this should clear up on its own in less than ten days. You can help it by placing a warm compress on his eyes, which should relieve the irritation. When the reason for his conjunctivitis is an allergen, your child should get tested so that this can be identified and avoided. The doctor could also prescribe him an oral antihistamine.

Besides medication, there are alternative methods to soothe your child's discomfort, like using cotton balls soaked in warm water to clean his eyes, one per each eyeball, and replacing them with new cotton balls after every use.

Whenever you are treating conjunctivitis in children, make sure to wash your hands very carefully before and after touching your kid's eyes, which isn't good advice either. As said previously, when conjunctivitis is caused by an infection, it turns really contagious, so you should proceed cautiously: avoid towels and use paper towels instead; don't share eye drops, and wash pillow cases very frequently, among other things.

When should I worry about conjunctivitis in children?

Though conjunctivitis in children should be always evaluated by a doctor, such a visit is even more required in case your kid shows symptoms such as:

  • Severe pain in the eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Fever
  • Extra sensitivity to light
  • Swelling and redness becoming more evident

Should he stay home? 

Conjunctivitis in toddlers often raises a doubt about whether they can go to preschool under such conditions. Your child should definitely stay home if he has a fever or eye discharge that he can't take care of well (basically, if he's too young). Anyway, you should first talk to the principal or the person in charge to check what the school's policy is about this particular situation.

In theory, conjunctivitis in children doesn't last more than a couple of weeks. But of course, you need to 'keep an eye' on your child to make sure that the treatment is working out. It's very important that you and Dad take preventive measures to avoid getting infected as well, and to not make your child's worsen. Hygiene is essential to wipe out conjunctivitis.