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    Conjunctivitis in Toddlers

    Written on 3 May 2021

    What is conjunctivitis?

    Conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye, is a common eye inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a transparent membrane that lines the inside of the eyelids and the whites of the eyes. However,Blood vessels become more visible when they're inflamed, giving the eye the characteristic pinkness or redness of the condition.

    Both eyes gets affected by conjunctivitis, sometimes starting in one eye then spreading to the other. It can be itchy or uncomfortable for your baby.

    What causes conjunctivitis in babies?

    Specifing the type of conjunctivitis your baby has is very difficult, but his symptoms may give you a clue: Conjunctivitis can be caused by:

    • Bacterial infection. Thick yellow, white or green discharge is the indication that your baby’s conjunctivitis is more likely to be caused by a bacterial infection.
    • Viral infection. Viral infections is ver uncomfortable and makes your baby's eyes gritty, so if he/she seems to be in pain, this is the most likely cause. This infection is accompanied by a cough or cold.
    • Allergic reaction. If your baby's eyes become red, watery and itchy after contact with an allergen (such as pets, dust, pollution, or when the pollen count is high), she may have an allergy.
    • Irritant. If you notice that your baby has something in her eye, it's more likely to be down to irritation. This can also happen if her eyes react to something in her environment, such as cigarette smoke or chlorine in a swimming pool. In some babies it could also be caused by smoke from incense sticks (agarbattis), dhoop or mosquito coils.

    What are the symptoms of conjunctivitis in children?

    You may notice the following:

    • The most noticable symptom is the whites of your baby's eyes turning pink, red or bloodshot.
    • Watery eyes than usual. Watery eyes can be a sign of under-developed tear ducts making her more prone to conjunctivitis.
    • She may have thick white or yellow discharge coming from her eyes.
    • Her eyes may be swollen, and the discharge can make her eyelids crusty and sticky. This may make it more difficult for her to open her eyes after sleeping.
    • Your baby may be restless and grumpy, and may keep rubbing her eyes.

    Some babies and children with conjunctivitis may have an enlarged lymph gland in front of the ear. Your doctor can check for this.

    Is conjunctivitis contagious?

    Yes, viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are contagious.

    Many believe that conjunctivitis spreads by just looking at an infected person, but this is not true. Your baby can get conjunctivitis only if she is in direct contact with an infected person.

    When an infected person wipes his eyes, the germs pass on to his hands. And when he touches anybody or anything with unwashed hands, the germs spread.

    So touching handkerchiefs, towels, tissues, pillows or cushions used by an infected person can pass on the germs.

    What should I do if I think my baby has conjunctivitis?

    Without any delay call your baby's doctor as soon as you notice symptoms of conjunctivitis.

    Red or pink eyes in babies under a month old could mean a blocked duct, but your doctor will want to check if it's something serious.

    No need to worry, If your baby is over a month old, and her eye is just a bit pink. But, it's important to treat it promptly, to avoid spreading germs.

    If your child has conjunctivitis along with continuous fever, a rash, painful or swollen hands and feet, and diarrhoea call your doctor right away. Though rare, it could be a sign of a serious inflammatory condition in children linked to coronavirus. The condition doesn't appear to affect newborns.

    How will my baby’s conjunctivitis be treated?

    Your baby's doctor will take a close look at your baby's eyes and ask you questions about her symptoms. He will offer you different treatments depending on what he thinks is causing your baby's conjunctivitis:

    Bacterial conjunctivitis
    This often gets better on its own within a week.

    If your baby has a particularly bad case, or isn’t getting better, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic cream or eye drops to clear up the infection. Make sure your baby takes the whole course, even if her eyes start to look better.

    Viral conjunctivitis
    A viral infection should clear up on its own within a few days to two weeks. Your doctor may prescribe soothing lubricant eye drops or may advise you just to keep your baby’s eyes clean.

    To clear away the crusts from your baby’s eyelids and eyelashes, wipe your baby's eyes with cotton wool soaked in sterilised or filtered and cooled boiled water.

    If your baby's eyes are bothering her, your doctor can recommend an ointment to help her feel better while she recovers.

    Allergic conjunctivitis
    If your little one's eyes are reacting to something in her environment, the best way to help her feel better is to avoid the thing she's allergic to.

    If this isn't possible, your doctor may prescribe medicine such as antihistamines to help her feel better. Learn more about allergies in babies.

    Conjunctivitis due to irritation
    This usually goes away on its own. If there's something stuck in your baby's eye, your doctor may flush it out with water, or gently remove it with a damp cotton bud. If your baby's eye is irritated by a chemical, check the packaging for immediate emergency treatment and take her to the nearest hospital.

    Always keep in mind that the eyes are very delicate and need proper care. So follow your doctor's advice for the type of conjunctivitis your baby has.

    To reduce the discomfort, your doctor may also suggest a warm compress. Simply soak a clean cloth, or sterile cotton balls in warm water and place them on your little one's eyes – while she's feeding, for example.

    Many mums believe that home remedies are helpful. Some say that washing a baby’s eyes with a mixture of rose water (gulab jal) and camphor, or with water in which Indian gooseberry (amla) has been soaked overnight is effective. Some may also use a solution of water and boric acid to clean the eyes.

    However, don't try any home remedies or alternate treatments without checking with your doctor first. Some treatments may not be suitable for babies and could be harmful.

    How can I protect my baby from getting conjunctivitis?

    If someone in the house has conjunctivitis, you can minimise the risks of your baby catching it by being aware of the infection and taking the right precautions. Here are some tips:

    • Keep your baby as far away as possible from anyone who has conjunctivitis until they are fully clear of the infection. If family members caring for your baby, or if your help is infected, consider making alternate childcare arrangements until they recover.
    • Good hygiene goes a long way in preventing and controlling the infection. Whether you're at home or at work, getting into the habit of thoroughly washing your hands will help you and those around you to stay well. Ask everyone in your home to do the same.
    • Make sure that all family members have their own towels, handkerchiefs, pillows, tissues or eye drops, no sharing. Ask all family members (infected and non-infected) to throw the used tissues or cotton balls into a covered bin.
    • Don't apply any kajal or surma to your baby's eyes. These can pass through and block the small and narrow opening between the eyes and the nose. This can cause infections and eye damage.
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