3 Tips to Prevent, Treat Pink Eye

December 21st 2015
Allison Gilchrist, Associate Editor
Allison Gilchrist, Associate Editor

Retail clinicians can help patients protect themselves from pink eye and provide recommendations to manage conjunctivitis if acquired.

Retail clinicians can help patients protect themselves from pink eye and provide recommendations to manage conjunctivitis if acquired.

Conjunctivitis is an extremely common and contagious infection, especially among children. The condition is an inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the white part of the eyeballs.

Although it can be irritating, pink eye rarely affects vision.

When parents bring their children presenting with pink eye to retail clinics, it is critical for the nurse practitioners and physician assistants staffing these clinics to counsel them about the condition and how to prevent the spread of it to others.

Here are 3 conjunctivitis tips that retail clinicians can share with patients:

1. Know the Different Conjunctivitis Types

There are 4 main types of conjunctivitis: bacterial, viral, allergic, and the kind caused by irritation. Each category has its own nuances that patients should be made aware of.

For bacterial conjunctivitis, antibiotic treatment in the form of eye drops or ointments is normally used. When pink eye is the result of an infection elsewhere in the body, antibiotics in tablet form may be prescribed.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, parents should not give their children eye drops for pink eye because the drops tend to cause rebound redness when the type is bacterial. This occurs because vasoconstrictors compress blood vessels in the eye, but blood flow is necessary to fight off the bacterial infection.

If treatment doesn’t work, retail clinicians should refer patients to an eye doctor who may prescribe an eye cleanser or more specialized type of antibiotic.

Viral conjunctivitis cannot be treated with antibiotic eye drops because antibiotics are only able to kill bacteria. Viral forms of pink eye are normally left to run their course, but it’s important to pinpoint exact symptoms in order to determine the underlying cause.

Allergic conjunctivitis is usually associated with a bit of mucous discharge and red eyes, though it is sometimes also associated with stuffy noses.

Pink eye caused by irritation usually occurs when a chemical splash or a foreign object in the eye leads to conjunctivitis. Flushing the eye to rid it of the irritant normally causes the redness, but signs and symptoms usually clear up on their own after a day or 2.

2. Practice Good Hygiene

Good hygiene is the most critical prevention method to halt the spread of pink eye.

Retail clinicians should offer the following hygiene tips from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Don’t touch you eyes with you hands.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Use only clean towels and washcloths.
  • Change your pillowcases often.
  • Avoid swimming in a swimming pool.
  • Use antibiotics for the complete period prescribed.

If conjunctivitis only affects one eye, it is important not to use a towel that was compressed against the affected eye on the non-affected eye.

3. Don’t Share Personal Items

Contrary to what children are often encouraged to do in school, parents should be aware of the fact that sharing items is often the main culprit for the spread of pink eye.

Specific items that should not be shared include towels, washcloths, eye cosmetics, and any personal eye care items.

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