Conjunctivitis: Why children are more prone

Children love playing but at times it is hard for parents to monitor their every step. The end result, in some instances, is catching diseases like pink eye infection or conjunctivitis. Sadly, when this occurs, parents simply rush to treat the child with ‘eye drops’ without taking into account the likely effects.

Children love playing but at times it is hard for parents to monitor their every step. The end result, in some instances, is catching diseases like pink eye infection or conjunctivitis. Sadly, when this occurs, parents simply rush to treat the child with ‘eye drops’ without taking into account the likely effects.

According Dr Edgar Kalimba, a paediatrician at King Faisal Hospital in Kigali, pink eye affects children of all ages and it is caused by either a viral or bacterial conjunctivitis.

Kalimba says pinkeye can be caused by allergy or occur due to an inflammatory cause. He says it affects both eyes with a thin watery discharge, yellowish and traumatic or irritant conjunctivitis.

The medic also says pinkeye has a number of different causes, including: viruses, bacteria, and irritants, for example, dirt, smoke, allergies like dust or poking the eyes with dirty fingers.

For Kalimba, pink eye caused by bacteria and viruses can spread easily from person to person, but is not a serious health risk if diagnosed quickly. However, pinkeye in newborn babies, he says, should be reported to a medical personnel immediately because it can be a threatening infection to the eyes.

Ophthalmologist Dr Marisa Sit of Toronto Western Hospital says most cases can be detected by primary care physicians or pediatricians, especially if the patient starts to have a blurry vision.

Sit says sometimes conjunctivitis may look inflamed or swollen though the difference can be identified after using specialised equipment.

Signs and symptoms

Kalimba says the condition is associated with swelling of the eyes, itchy and painful eyes, as well as thick and yellow discharge if the conjunctivitis is caused by a bacteria, while there is a thin watery discharge if it is caused by viruses.

He advises that children should be advised not to rub their eyes with dirty hands, adding that a swab should be used to take off the discharge to the lab to establish the kind of bacteria that has affected a child.

Dr Bwiza Muhire, a pediatrician at King Faisal Hospital, says if one has pink eye, the eyes might turn pink or red, weep or ooze a gooey liquid, become itchy, get stuck shut, especially when one is waking up, blurred vision, increased sensitivity to light, and white discharge from the eye.

“Basically, pink eye can be caused by infection, allergies or an unknown irritation.

Most cases of pink eye go away on their own without treatment, but some types can be treated based on the causes,” he says.

Muhire explains that pink eye caused by infection can be spread easily by contact but children can develop it from touching something that has been in contact with an infected person’s eye.

Treatment

Muhire says pink eye caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotic eye drops or gels. He, however, says antibiotics cannot cure pink eye if it is caused by a virus.

Bwiza says pink eye caused by other problems can be treated with eye drops normally used to treat allergies, but he says these drops will not cure the pink eye but they can help reduce itchiness and irritation.

He urges parents to make it a point to consult qualified medical practitioners immediately children develop the above signs and symptoms.

Kalimba says topical antibiotic drops can be used to treat infected eyes, but adds that for viral conjunctivitis, natural tears eye drops should be used to clean up the eye and if the cause is due to allergies then it is advisable to use topical allergic eye drops.

He, however, says any sickness that affects the eyes should be taken seriously because eyes are connected to the brain, meaning that if the infection worsens, the brain can be damaged.

Kalimba urges people especially children to always wash their hands with soap and clean water before touching their faces or eyes and to avoid pocking their eyes because hands can be having germs any time, so proper hygiene is highly recommended.

 

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