Disclaimer: This article is informative and not intended to replace actual medical advice. Seek professional medical advice before attempting to diagnose or treat any medical conditions.
As we near the end of cold and flu season, moms are reporting some nasty viruses making their way around the toddlerverse. While no one wants to tangle with influenza, few illnesses are as gross as pink eye. Visually, pink eye is alarming - it's pretty hard to miss! My own toddler has woken up with an eye full of goop - another telltale sign of pink eye. Most pediatricians will tell parents not to be alarmed - pink eye is extremely common in toddlers and babies. Conjunctivitis, which is the official medical name for pink eye, is an inflammation of certain tissues in the eye. It spreads easily and, not surprisingly, is most common in patients between ages 2 and 7.
RELATED: CDC Information On Conjunctivitis
How Do Toddlers Get Pink Eye?
Pink eye is simply inflammation, so any source of irritation can cause pink eye. Usually, pink eye is caused by a virus, but can also begin with bacteria, allergens, or irritants. It's difficult to determine the cause of the pink eye because the symptoms are always the same, regardless of the initial origin. Some cases of conjunctivitis are caused by the common cold virus and can accompany ear infections. Others are caused by fecal matter getting into a kid's eye. It's easy for kids to self-infect since they aren't exactly conscientious about washing their hands. Luckily, most toddlers and babies with pink eye just need cuddles and a nice warm compress on their eyes.
Symptoms Of Pink Eye In Toddlers
Pink eye's main symptoms are very easy to spot. As the name suggests, the eye itself turns pink! The thin, clear lining of the inside of the eyelid and white part of the eyeball is called conjunctiva. When this tissue becomes irritated, it makes the tiny blood vessels in the eye appear more visible, giving the eye a pink tint. Other symptoms include excessive tears or discharge from the eye itself. This discharge can be white, green, yellow, or clear. When it dries, it can even "glue" your toddler's eyes shut. Although they might not be able to verbalize their symptoms, conjunctivitis also makes eyes feel gritty, rough, and itchy.
How To Treat Pink Eye
Here's the good news: most cases of pinkeye do not need to be seen by a doctor. Use warm, damp washcloths to remove "eye gunk" and soothe the eye. Pink eye should fade within a few days on its own. Of course, during the course of conjunctivitis, toddlers are still highly contagious! Be sure to keep bed linens washed and do your best to encourage frequent handwashing.
For some people, a trip to the doctor's office is in order. If your toddler shows light sensitivity, extreme eye redness, or is immunocompromised, take them in. While it can be hard to narrow down the cause, some doctors prescribe antibiotic ointments in case the cause is bacterial.
Newborns With Pink Eye Need Immediate Treatment
Toddlers may not need medical attention for most cases of pink eye, but newborns absolutely MUST see a doctor. Conjunctivitis in infants can cause serious complications for their tiny immune systems. Sometimes pink eye in newborns is a sign of a sexually transmitted infection picked up during birth. In these cases, the newborn could have vision problems if the condition is left untreated.
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