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Conjunctivitis in Children - Treatment and Prevention

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Conjunctivitis is a condition that affects the eyes and causes redness, swelling, and discharge from the eyes with severe discomfort.

Written by

Dr. Asha. C

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham

Published At April 25, 2024
Reviewed AtApril 25, 2024

What Is Conjunctivitis in Children?

Conjunctivitis, sometimes known as "pink eye," is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva. The thin layer of mucous membrane that lines the interior of the eyelids and protects the eyes is called the conjunctiva. It is typically translucent, but it can be injected and turn pink or red when it becomes inflamed. It is a relatively common issue for kids.

The severity of conjunctivitis can range from subconjunctival hemorrhage with purulent discharge and edema of the conjunctiva or eyelid to minor redness associated with weeping. Schools and childcare facilities frequently experience significant epidemics of conjunctivitis. Yet pinkeye can strike adults and teenagers as well.

There are no generally recognized standards for treating conjunctivitis in children, and different clinicians have different approaches. Regarding children, this condition is frequently classified as either childhood or newborn conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis in children is usually classified according to its cause, which can be roughly divided into infectious and non-infectious causes:

  • Infectious Conjunctivitis - Bacterial or viral.

  • Non-infectious Conjunctivitis - Allergic conjunctivitis, conjunctivitis due to foreign bodies, contact lens overwear, or environmental causes.

What Causes Conjunctivitis in Children?

Infectious Conjunctivitis - Infectious conjunctivitis is highly contagious. Many bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, Chlamydia trachomatis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria gonorrhoeae) and viruses (adenoviruses, herpes virus, and others).

An infectious conjunctivitis could occur in a child if they come into touch with:

  • An infected person discharges from their eyes, nose, or throat by touching, sneezing, or coughing.

  • Touching contaminated objects or fingers.

  • Swimming in contaminated water or using contaminated towels.

Children with infectious conjunctivitis should not attend daycare, kindergarten, or school until their eye discharge has subsided. As long as a discharge comes from their eye, a person with infectious conjunctivitis will continue to spread the infection. To stop the infection from spreading to others, make sure to wash hands thoroughly and frequently.

Non-infectious Conjunctivitis -

  • Allergic Conjunctivitis - Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and can occur due to allergic reactions. Children with a history of other allergies are more likely to experience it. If an allergy is the cause of the conjunctivitis, the child will frequently exhibit additional symptoms of hay fever. Dust mites, grass, ragweed pollen, and animal dander are examples of triggers. Sneezing, an itchy or runny nose, and watery, irritated eyes can all be symptoms. Kids who suffer from allergic conjunctivitis often nearly wipe their eyes.

  • Irritant or Traumatic Conjunctivitis - It can be caused by brief mechanical or chemical injury. Anything that irritates the eyes, such as the chlorine in swimming pools, foreign objects in the eyes, air pollution, and overuse of contact lenses, can cause it. It may be persistent, recurrent, or acute, and the discharge is more mucus-type than pus.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Conjunctivitis in Children?

The signs and symptoms of conjunctivitis vary for each child. After contracting the infection, symptoms often appear 24 to 72 hours later and may persist for two to three weeks.

In general, the signs and symptoms of conjunctivitis in children include:

  • A red or pink inflammation in one eye or both eyes.

  • Redness behind the eyelid.

  • Itchy, irritated eyes.

  • Swelling of the eyelids, giving a puffy appearance.

  • Slight pain when the kid looks at a light, causing a dislike of bright lights (photophobia).

  • Excessive tears.

  • Burning in the eyes.

  • Clear, thin fluid discharges from the eyes.

  • Eyelids sticking together in the morning due to discharge.

  • Occurrence of yellow-green discharge from the eye that dries when the child sleeps, leading to crusting around the eyelids.

  • Sneezing, runny nose, and stringy discharge from the eyes can occur most often from allergies

  • Thick, green drainage, and ear infection, can occur mostly in bacterial infections.

  • A feeling of a foreign body in the eyes (like there is sand in the eye).

What Is the Treatment for Conjunctivitis in Children?

Treatment for conjunctivitis will depend on the symptoms, cause, and general health. For example:

  • Viral Conjunctivitis: Treatment for viral conjunctivitis is usually not required. An antihistamine eye drop applied topically could assist in reducing inflammation. Antibiotic eye drops can sometimes be applied to help stop a subsequent infection. The duration of symptoms is two to three weeks.

  • Bacterial Conjunctivitis: Antibiotic eye drops, or ointment may be used to treat bacterial conjunctivitis. Following the ointment application, hazy vision may persist for up to 20 minutes.

  • Allergic Conjunctivitis: Preventing eye irritation is one way to manage allergic conjunctivitis. If the child is itching and experiencing discomfort, use artificial tears, a cool compress, or antihistamine eye drops.

How Can Conjunctivitis in Children Be Prevented?

Conjunctivitis is not a serious or life-threatening illness, but it should not be handled carelessly because it can cause great discomfort in children. Due to its high contagiousness, infectious conjunctivitis can spread quickly among kids, particularly in schools.

Children's conjunctivitis can be avoided by taking the following precautions:

  • Good Hygiene: Place a high priority on frequent hand washing and avoiding close contact with an infected child. After use, discard materials like cotton balls and gauze. To prevent contamination, wash the child's towels and other linens from the family's regular laundry in hot water.

  • Refrain From Sharing: Do not share personal goods such as tissues, eye drops, makeup, towels, washcloths, or pillowcases.

  • Minimize Allergen Exposure: Regular home cleaning helps reduce allergy triggers. Close windows and doors on days with high pollen counts. It is also important to cover children's eyes when they are around chemicals or smoke.

  • Isolation: Until they are no longer contagious, keep kids with conjunctivitis home from childcare centers or schools.

  • Proper Contact Lens Care: If a child wears them, make sure they are clean and follow proper care.

Conclusion:

Conjunctivitis in children can spread very rapidly, so special care must be taken in young children. Even if it is not a severe condition, it can cause much discomfort in children. This condition can be easily prevented by following proper hygiene and a few preventive measures. So it is necessary to educate children on the proper handwashing techniques and isolate them from other children if they have conjunctivitis.

Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham
Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham

Pediatrics

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conjunctivitispink eye
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