The holiday season is synonymous with large gatherings of family and friends, sharing laughter, food, gifts, stories, and inevitably, germs. The holiday season lines up perfectly with another, less treasured time of the year: cold and flu season. When you think of cold and flu season, images of the stomach flu and various types of upper respiratory infections most likely come to mind, but flu season may also bring an unexpected surprise in the form of conjunctivitis or pink eye.
What is conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis or pink eye is a common and treatable eye infection in adults and children. It is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, or the tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and the white of the eyeball, that helps keep both the eyelid and eyeball moist.
It can be caused by a number of different factors, including, but not limited to viruses, bacteria, irritants (chemicals, cosmetics, smoke), or allergens.
Types of Conjunctivitis
There are three types of conjunctivitis: bacterial, allergic and viral.
- Bacterial: Common type of pink eye
- Causes: Bacteria that infects the eye through various sources of contamination (infected individuals, exposure to contaminated surfaces, sinus or ear infections)
- Symptoms: Thick eye discharge or pus in one or both eyes
- Treatment: Topical antibiotic eye drops or ointments
- Viral: Highly contagious
- Causes: Can accompany common viral upper respiratory infections like the flu or common cold
- Symptoms: Water discharge in one eye that quickly spreads to the other
- Treatment: Antibiotics will not work against viruses, and it will typically go away on its own within several days. You can relieve your symptoms with eye drops, decongestants and antihistamines.
- Allergic: Not contagious
- Causes: Allergies
- Symptoms: Redness, itchy eyes, swollen eyelids, increased amount of tears, or blurred vision
- Treatment: Eye drops containing antihistamines
There are steps you can take to prevent the spread of pink eye with your family and friends this holiday season.
- Always, always, always wash your hands
- Discard cosmetics and eye care products once you’ve been diagnosed with pink eye to prevent the spread of infection
- Change towels and washcloths daily (and do not share with others)
- Avoid wearing contact lenses until the infection clears
If you suspect you or someone you love may be developing a case of pink eye, contact Illinois Eye Center at (309) 243-2400. We’ll be able to properly diagnose your condition and provide the proper treatment you need to get your eyes back in tip-top shape!