Learn about Conjunctivitis, also commonly known as pink eye. Steven Rosenberg MD . Pediatric Ophthalmology . www.DrMDK.com
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Host: A common question is a kid is sent home from school because the kid's eyes are red, do you have to treat every red eye and is it contagious and when are they contagious? Dr. Steven Rosenberg: Well, red eyes can mean a lot of different things. The most common reason is actually, during the spring, it is probably allergies, however the thing that everybody is worried about is a viral conjunctivitis. A viral conjunctivitis is contagious and is something that can spread to another kids, but does not have a specific treatment. There is no specific antibiotics to treat it and there is no specific thing that you can do to prevent it from happening except for cleanliness and things like changing your pillow case, changing your towels each day and making sure you wash your hands before you touch your eyes So generally, a child who does have a viral conjunctivitis and if they are confirmed to have viral conjunctivitis is contagious as long as the eye is tearing. Now, if you are worried about bacterial conjunctivitis, it is when we get a bacterial conjunctivitis however, the eye will have much thicker discharge and almost like a pus coming out of the eye. And if you do see anything like that that involves you immediately need antibiotic treatment. Host: If you do have this bacterial one, generally how long you should treat those? Dr. Steven Rosenberg: Generally, we treat it for about seven days, with antibiotic drops, but they can actually go back to school sometimes quicker than the ones with viral conjunctivitis because once they are treated, they actually get better very quickly as opposed to those with viral conjunctivitis where there could be a huge variability of getting better in a couple of days or can take two to three weeks sometimes to get better from a viral conjunctivitis. Host: So the general rule that the eyes are not discharging, but red, probably is not contagious or a concern? Dr. Steven Rosenberg: That is not true. Generally, if both eyes are involved and they are both itching and it does seem to be a seasonal allergy, then it may not be contagious. However, it can be contagious if the child has a cold or if there is other people around him that are having colds. The eyes can have some liquid discharge and some tearing and the tears can be contagious at that time. Host: So if a kid has an eye infection, bacterial or viral, when would you recommend it is safe the kid go back to school? Dr. Steven Rosenberg: Once the eye is no longer weeping with fluid. So once the eye is less red, and there is no longer any discharge whether it is clear or thick coming out of the eye. Host: Okay. So the main way of stopping the spread is good handwashing, keep them in an area away from other kids. Dr. Steven Rosenberg: Right, and also, even training their own child in school never to touch his eyes unless he has washed his hands right before doing it because it does not just get generally contracted in the air, it has to be with people actually touching their eyes or somehow, the virus getting into the eyes directly. Host: So prevention is important. Dr. Steven Rosenberg: Prevention is important.