Conjunctivitis – Causes and Cures!
Conjunctivitis is swelling and irritation of the conjunctiva which is the protective layer that covers the whites of the eyes. There are three main types of conjunctivitis although the main focus of this article will be infective conjunctivitis.
The main types are:
- Irritant conjunctivitis – when an irritant like chlorine or even an eyelash gets into the eye and causes irritation.
- Allergic conjunctivitis – when an allergen causes an immune response in the conjunctiva causing irritation and inflammation
- Infective conjunctivitis – This can be caused by a virus or bacteria and typically results in red watery eyes. This is usually accompanied by a sticky discharge which is most apparent in the mornings. Unfortunately it’s a very common condition, especially in children. It is hard to prevent contact between children and infections and so it will most likely remain prevalent within this age group.
- Normally begins in one eye and spreads to the other eye after a day or two.
- Redness of the whites of the eyes.
- Eyes may water more than normal
- Discharge weeping from the eyes or stuck on the eyelashes particularly in the morning time.
- Irritation – May feel as if there is grit in the eyes.
- Possible other symptoms related to an upper respiratory tract infection may be present such as coughing, temperature, sore throat, high temperature, headaches.
It is important to note that many babies may have discharge in their eye which may not be related to conjunctivitis. This is known as ‘sticky eye’ and is as a result of a blockage of some sort in the tear duct which means that tears cannot drain properly and the duct produces a pus like discharge. This condition should be brought to the attention of your doctor but does not require urgent treatment. If however the discharge is accompanied with irritation and redness of the eye it is more likely to be as a result of conjunctivitis. This can develop into a serious condition and if a baby is under 28 days old you need to see your GP or medical practitioner at your earliest convenience.
- Wash your hands as often as you remember, especially after treating your babies infected eyes.
- Avoid using the same towel as your baby.
- Avoid sharing towels and blankets between siblings when one child has conjunctivitis.
- Use a piece of gauze or a cotton pad dipped in boiled cool water to clean the eyes by doing a single wipe from the nose out to the ears. This is particularly useful in the mornings when the discharge is at its worst and I’d recommend using luke warm water and wiping slowly to soften the discharge and make it easier for your baby or child to open their eyes.
- Always dump cotton pads or gauze after a single wipe of the eyes to prevent reintroducing infection.
- Breast milk has been found extremely useful to use to clean an infected eye and in many cases can improve or clear an infection.
- In most cases treatment is not required and the condition clears up by itself within a week or so.
- If you suspect conjunctivitis and your baby is less than 28 days old see a doctor at your earliest convenience.
- Clean the eye using the advice mentioned in the tips above.
- Brolene can be bought over the counter and whilst its not an antibiotic it has bacteriostatic properties which means it may improve minor eye infections. It is suitable from birth at a dosage of one drop four times a day. If there is no improvement with the Brolene after two days seek medical advice. Read the leaflet for more information.
- If you find Brolene drops difficult to use you may find the Brolene ointment a little easier to use – the only problem is that they need to be kept in the fridge!
- Persistent conjunctivitis may require an antibiotic such as chloromycetin eye drops or fucithalmic viscous drops which are available on prescription from your GP. Whilst Chloromycetin is recommended first line I would just advise that it requires a minimum of one drop four times a day in accordance with your prescribers recommendations whereas the Fucithalmic only requires twice daily dosing and well…we all know how much fun it is to try to get eye drops into a babies eyes!
- Worth noting Chloromycetin eye drops need to be kept in the fridge, Fucithalmic drops do not.
I hope you have found the information useful and as always if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me through the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or in Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy on 01-2600262.