I see so many children wth conjunctivitis.  What a tempest in a teapot.  It’s most typically a very mild problem yet children are excluded from school pending me weaving my magic spell and putting the child on antibiotic drops.  Perhaps as a businessman I should think positively of school policies that mostly reguire a doctor’s evaluation prior to return as it brings in “customers.”  But being serious, if it disrupts my patients(not”customers”) lives and upsets their parents I’m not a great fan of that approach.  I guess its a “necessary evil”–to be sure and safe that school attendance does not place the rest of the students at risk.  So in come the little red eyed kiddies and I help wherever i can.

Anyway, pink eye is a symptom.  Most typically, it is a sign of a mild infection–occasionally bacterial but more typically viral–called conjunctivitis.   Usually the eyelids are slightly irritated and the eyes sting, burn, or may feel “scratchy”, but systemic symptoms like fever, headache, or vomiting occur less commonly.  Antibiotic drops will shorten the course in the case of bacterial infection but in most instances it will be a short term problem and will run its course in a few days at any rate.  Bathing the eyes with warm water, analgesics(acetaminophen or ibuprofen) for discomfort are usually all that is needed for treatment.  Vaporizer in your child’s bedroom, saline nasal drops, hot fluids to drink for nasal congestion can be helpful.  I don’t typically recommend medicines for cold/cough as I’ve detailed previously.

Please note that while “pink eye” is often synonymous with “conjunctivitis” they are not always the same thing.  Get poked in the eye or swim for a long time in a heavily chlorinated pool and your eyes will get pink but neither of those are infections, for example.  If your child has severe headaches or eye pain, photophobia(eyes sensitivity to light), change in visual acuity(eyesight deteriorating), or if the eye irritation and redness persist for greater than a week your child should be re-evaluated.

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