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  • A Parent's Guide to Sore Eyes

    An overview of conjunctivitis: what it is, how to prevent it and how to cure it
  • Boy with conjunctivitis

    Sore eyes are everywhere these days that it’s very likely someone you know has it, or possibly, someone your child knows, like a classmate or a fellow school bus rider. Reading up on it will arm you and your child with information on what exactly it is, how to prevent it, and how to cure it.

    What is it?
    Conjunctivitis -- or "sore eyes" as we call it -- is an inflammation of the outer layer of the eye and the inner eye lid. The outer lining of the eye is usually clear, it becomes red and swollen when irritated.

    Sore eyes can be caused by many different types of viruses and bacteria that are also responsible for colds and other infections. The most common type of virus to cause sore eyes is the adenovirus which is a common respiratory virus.

    What are its symptoms?
    It causes the infected eye to swell and the whites of the eye to turn anywhere from pink to very red. The infected eye can also feel itchy, have a burning sensation or feel like there’s sand in the eye.

    The eye can be very teary and can have a white or clear discharge. Because of this, your child might have difficulty opening his eyes when he wakes up. Wiping the eye with a damp tissue to remove the discharge should make opening his eyes easier and less painful. Throw the tissue away afterwards then wash your hands thoroughly.

    How does it spread?
    Conjunctivitis is highly contagious and spreads very easily. The bacteria can transfer unto surfaces touched or held by an infected person such as a tissue or a handkerchief. Touching these surfaces and then rubbing or touching your eye could infect you.

    A person who has sore eyes in one eye could easily spread the infection to a non-infected eye if he isn't careful.

    You cannot catch sore eyes by simply looking into the eyes of someone who has it.

    Doctors advise students infected with sore eyes to stay at home to avoid spreading the virus to other children.

    How do we prevent it?

    You and your child should wash your hands regularly, with soap and water whenever possible, especially before and after touching your face. Do not share towels, handkerchiefs, eye drops, eye makeup and eye brushes with other people. Do not share contact lenses, contact lense cases and solutions as well.

    If you’re treating a child with conjunctivitis, wash your hands thoroughly after touching your child’s eye or after administering eye medicine. Immediately throw away tissue, cotton or gauze that has been in contact with the infected person.

    How is it treated?

    Sore eyes caused by a virus will go away without treatment after a few days. Bacterial sore eyes require antibiotic eye drops or ointment. This highlights the importance of visiting your physician if you suspect an infection. Your physician will be able to tell you what caused the sore eyes and what the proper treatment should be.

    Any severe symptoms such as extreme swelling, intense pain or change sin vision should be brought to the attention of a physician immediately.

    Helpful tips when administering eye drops to your child:

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    • Pointed objects directed very near to the eye can be unnerving for anyone. This is especially true for children even if it’s just eye drops. Remember to be extra patient with your child.
    • Use a countdown when administering the drops. This way, your child will be able to expect when the drop comes and will not reflexively close his eye.
    • For easier administration, have your child close his eyes. Place the drops in the inner corner of the infected eye. Have your child slowly open his eyes to let the medicine flow in.

    Mayoclinic.org, Webmd.com, Kidshealth.org

    Illustration by Pau Padre

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