What You Should Know About Pinkeye

What You Should Know About Pinkeye
Pinkeye is the lay term for conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is defined as a “disorder in which the conjunctivae are reddened” (2012). Typical causes of conjunctivitis (pinkeye) include viruses, bacteria, and allergens. However, additional causes include contacts, chemical, fungi, and some diseases. This article with focus on providing information about the first three: viruses, bacteria, and allergens. The goal is to help provide a better understanding of conjunctivitis (pinkeye) in an effort to keep students learning in the classroom and minimize the spread of infection. 

Viral Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye)

The most common cause of viral conjunctivitis is adenovirus. This particular virus can also cause cold or upper respiratory symptoms, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This virus is often the cause when pink eye symptoms present after a “cold” or upper respiratory infection.

Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis (pinkeye):
Pink or red conjunctiva
Watery drainage
Can be painful but not usually itchy

Viral conjunctivitis is very contagious. You can get viral pinkeye from touching tears, eye discharge, fecal matter, nasal drainage, or droplets from coughing/sneezing that are infected with the virus and then touching your eyes. Because it is transmitted by direct hand-to-eye contact, good hand hygiene and reminding your child to not touch their face is the best defense against this illness. 

Bacterial Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye)

Common causes of bacterial conjunctivitis are: 
Staphylococcus aureus – A common bacteria found in the nose and on the skin. 
Streptococcus pneumoniae – A bacteria that are found in the respiratory tract and are often the cause of sinus infections, ear infections, and
Bacterial conjunctivitis is also very contagious and is also transmitted by direct hand-to-eye contact. Simply touching a surface that has been contaminated by someone with bacterial conjunctivitis (pinkeye) and then touching your face/eyes can expose you to bacterial conjunctivitis (pinkeye). Good hand hygiene and avoiding touching your face is also the best way is prevent bacterial conjunctivitis (pinkeye).

Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis (pinkeye):
Pink or red conjunctiva
Purulent drainage – thick whitish/yellowish/greenish drainage
Can be painful but not usually itchy 

Allergic Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye)

Allergic conjunctivitis is a sign or symptom of allergies. When the body is exposed to triggers like tree pollens, plants, grasses, dust mites, animal dander, molds, or other allergen it produces a histamine response that can cause the eyes to tear and itch. It can also cause the conjunctiva to be red and eyelids to be puffy and swollen. Allergic conjunctivitis (pinkeye) is not contagious.

A hallmark symptom of allergic is itching and bacterial is the purulent drainage. Only your physician can diagnose what type of conjunctivitis (pinkeye) your child has so you may have to pick up you student if they present to the clinic with symptoms because both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are very contagious. 

Prevention is key! Good hand hygiene and teaching your child to avoid touching the T-zone of the face: eyes, nose, and mouth. Please feel free to contact your school nurse if you have any questions.

Stedman’s Medical Dictionary for the health profession and nursing, 7th edition 
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