Red eyes and conjunctivitis in children

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Conjunctivitis in children

La conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva that has predominantly viral, bacterial or origin allergic.

In all cases the symptoms are similar - redness of the eyes, secretions, itching, burning - but the treatments are different. It generally is annoying but not serious, and passes quickly enough following the indications and therapies proposed by the pediatrician or ophthalmologist.

In this article

  • What is conjunctivitis
  • What are the causes of conjunctivitis
  • How conjunctivitis manifests itself
  • To the pediatrician or the ophthalmologist?
  • How conjunctivitis is treated
  • How to clean your eyes well
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What is conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane that lines the outer surface of the eyeball, contributing to its lubrication, and the inside of the eyelids. It can affect only one eye or both.

Read also: How to protect children's eyes from the sun

What are the causes of conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis usually has an origin infectious - viral or bacterial - or allergic.

"The infectious forms are easily contagious: it is enough to touch your eye with a dirty hand or to make mixed use of towels to become infected "says Luca Buzzonetti, Head of the Ophthalmology Unit of the Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital in the city." Not surprisingly, the most popular places risk of transmission are the school, thanks to close contacts between classmates, and the home environment, where it is easy for the infection to pass between the various members of the family ".

On the contrary, allergic forms are not contagious. However, they are constantly increasing, hand in hand with the general increase in allergies. "If earlier allergic conjunctivitis were concentrated in the spring season, now they are seen at all times of the year, probably thanks to the pollutants with whom you come into contact continuously "explains Buzzonetti. Among the main causes of allergic conjunctivitis are pollen and dust. Allergic conjunctivitis is more common in children who also have allergic rhinitis.

Read also: Pollen allergies? Prevention is better

How conjunctivitis manifests itself

Whatever the cause, the symptoms of conjunctivitis are pretty much the same: redness of the eyes, itching, liquid or thick secretions. The latter can make it difficult to fully open the eyes, especially in the morning upon awakening. If the conjunctivitis is bacterial, the secretions are usually yellowish and sticky, while if it is viral they can be clearer and also accompany some flu symptoms. In the case of allergic conjunctivitis, the secretions are usually clear and watery.

Sometimes, older children may also report the sensation of burning and discomfort, as if they had sand in their eyes.

Usually, infectious conjunctivitis starts in one eye and then extends to the other, while allergic conjunctivitis occurs immediately in both eyes.

From the physical examination, the doctor is usually able to distinguish between the various forms: in case of doubt, a buffer to identify the responsible germ - and establish the most suitable therapy - or possibly of the test allergologici, if the allergic origin is suspected.

Also read: 12 signs to tell if your child might have allergies

To the pediatrician or the ophthalmologist?

If you suspect that your baby has conjunctivitis, the first thing to do is usually contact the pediatrician. Who, if necessary, will refer the child to the ophthalmologist. "In any case it is fundamental avoid self-management of care, in order not to run the risk of using inappropriate drugs. And the use of drugs that have already expired should also be avoided because they have been at home for a long time ”Buzzonetti recalls.

How conjunctivitis is treated

The treatment of conjunctivitis changes according to the cause that triggered it.

“Bacterial conjunctivitis must be treated with a antibiotic eye drops”Says the ophthalmologist. “It should be borne in mind that the symptoms generally tend to improve already after about 48 hours, however it is necessary to continue the therapy until the end, to be sure that the bacterium has been eradicated.

"For viral conjunctivitis, on the other hand, we do not have a drug that directly affects the virus, so local therapy with anti-inflammatory eye drops in order to contain the symptoms. These can possibly be associated with antibiotic eye drops to reduce the risk of superinfections ".

What if it's allergic conjunctivitis? "In this case you can prescribe a antihistamine eye drops, but obviously the child will have to be treated by an allergy specialist, who will evaluate a global approach to the problem ".

In all cases, a cortisone eye drops, which has a rapid anti-inflammatory action that subsides symptoms in a short time. "However, it should only be used for short periods and under strict control of the specialist because in the long run it could cause even serious problems" points out Buzzonetti.

How to put eye drops on the child?

Putting eye drops on a child is never an easy task: squint your eyes, move your head and the eye drops ends up everywhere except in the eye. How to do? If you really don't want to know, you can try lowering the lower lid a little to create a small gateway.

How to clean your eyes well

If the child has conjunctivitis, it is very important to keep the eye clean of secretions, which favor the survival of germs and therefore their proliferation. How to clean it? In the pharmacy they are sold sterile disinfectant wipes specifically dedicated to this purpose. Just remember to use one wipe per eye.

A home alternative is the boil a cotton ball in a saucepan of water, let it cool and then pass it over the eye (also in this case using two separate wads per eye). "Sometimes, anthorough cleaning on its own it may be sufficient to resolve a conjunctivitis which can also be caused by a simple irritation of the eyelid margin "concludes the ophthalmologist.

Other sources for this article: Information material from the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London; Information material from the Royal Children's Hospital of Melbourne; Information material of the Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital in the city.

Read also: Cleaning the eyes of the newborn: how to do it?

Questions and answers

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva, that is, the transparent membrane that lines the eye. Conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial, viral, or allergic infection.

Does a newborn with red eyes have conjunctivitis for sure? 

No! Sometimes the sclera (white part of the eye) can become red from mechanical causes, for example if the child rubs his eyes too hard

How do you clean your baby's eyes?

The baby's eyes can be cleaned using a sterile cloth moistened with warm water, preferably boiled before use, or there are special disposable wipes for cleaning the eyelids and eyelashes.

  • allergies children
  • 1-2 children years
  • conjunctivitis children alone
  • eyes
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