It's a sight for sore eyes -- literally -- when your little one rubs his crusty eyes one morning and, under the yellow crust, you see that tell-tale redness or pinkness.
Sore eyes, also known as "pink eye" or conjunctivitis, often looks much worse than it actually is. Usually, it should be no more cause for concern than a common cold and can quite effectively be managed with home remedies.
However, there are occasions when you need to seek the opinion of a doctor for your child's conjunctivitis -- which we tell you about later in this article.
What is conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis means inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is a very thin film that covers the eyeball and the inside of the eyelids.
The eye has tear ducts and mucus glands to keep it lubricated. But when this system gets overwhelmed, it can go into overdrive. The eyes can begin to secrete protective tears or mucus, causing it to become swollen and gooey. These are some commons signs of conjunctivitis.
If your child has conjunctivitis, you may notice the white of his eye is pink or red in colour. | Image courtesy: stock image
What causes it?
- Infection is the most common cause of conjunctivitis. The contagious kind that often spreads through daycare centers and schools is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. It’s often transmitted through droplets of infected mucus spread by sneezing or coughing.
According to medical experts, if the pus around the eye is yellow, it’s probably caused by bacteria such as golden staph (this is treatable with an antibiotic). If the pus is white, a cold virus could be causing the trouble.
- Allergy is another common cause of sore eyes. Many people who are allergic to pollen may have red and inflamed conjunctiva.
- Irritants like chlorine (in swimming pools) or shampoo may also cause your child's or your conjunctiva to become inflamed.
Signs and symptoms
- Redness or pinkness in one or both of your child's eyes
- Sticky or "gummed-up" eyelids, especially upon waking up
- Yellowish crust along the eyelashes
- Yellowish or whitish discharge from the eye
- Discomfort, itchiness or sensitivity to light
- Mild fever or swollen lymph nodes near the ears
How to treat your kid's sore eyes
Conjunctivitis is rarely serious but it is highly contagious. If your child has it, it's best to keep him at home until his eyes clear.
"As sore eyes tend to be caused by viruses, no treatment is really necessary as the body’s immune system often resolves the condition given some time. However, simple artificial tear eye drops can be used to soothe the eyes, and the medication normally used to relieve the accompanying cold/flu symptoms of blocked/runny nose (typically antihistamines), will also provide some help," shares Dr Gerard Nah, Medical Director of W Eye Clinic.
If you would like to try some natural remedies to ease your child's discomfort, we suggest the following:
Cleaning your child's eyes with a clean cloth soaked in chamomile tea is an effective home remedy to soothe sore eyes. | Image courtesy: stock image
- Let his tears wash away those germs! Yes, that's right. Tears contain chemicals that fight off germs (bacteria). Without any treatment at all, most cases of infective conjunctivitis clear on their own within 2-5 days and generally won't last beyond 1-2 weeks.
- Cold or warm compresses. These can be placed on the outside of your child's closed eyelids several times a day to help relieve discomfort. Experts recommend using cold compresses for allergen-related conjunctivitis and warm compresses for infections.
- Clean your child's eye from the inner (near the nose) to the outer corner with moist tissues soaked in water or chamomile tea that has been boiled and cooled.
- Include healing foods such as garlic, strawberries, oranges, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit and broccoli, in your child's diet.
- Breastmilk not only nourishes your child, but is also a great home remedy for sore eyes. Just soak a clean, soft cloth or tissue with some expressed breastmilk, and use this to clean your child's eye in the same manner as you would with water.
- Chinese medicine is a great way of treating sore eyes. A Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) practitioner will examine your child, make a diagnosis and prepare an appropriate herbal remedy for treatment.
TCM for sore eyes
TCM considers sore eyes as a Wind heat syndrome. A qualified TCM practitioner may treat your child's conjunctivitis with a combination of herbs.
One such herb used is Ju Hua, mostly for allergy-related sore eyes. Jue Ming Zi is a more powerful form of Ju Hua and may be used when symptoms are more severe.
If your newborn has conjunctivitis, do not hesitate to show her to the doctor for immediate treatment.
When to show your child with sore eyes to a doctor
"Red eyes in children is usually viral in nature, and often comes with symptoms of a cold or flu. Generally, parents should bring their children to see a doctor when the kids are not feeling well. Or if they are not getting better after a few (3-5) days of rest. If, however, a child complains of eye pain, or poor or blur vision, then it becomes necessary to see a doctor quickly," shares Dr Nah.
If your newborn baby has conjunctivitis, do however show him without delay to a doctor.
Germs called chlamydia or gonorrhoea can cause conjunctivitis in newborn babies. These are serious sexually transmitted infections that can be passed on to babies by their mother. That is, if she has one of these infections, during a vaginal birth.
This is different from the very common sticky eye of newborn babies, caused by a blocked tear duct. A blocked tear duct will not cause redness and inflammation of the conjunctiva.
If your child complains of intense pain it's best to take her to a doctor immediately.
Your child's doctor will generally treat the sore eyes with an antibiotic eye drop or eye ointment. Depending on the severity of the conjunctivitis, the doctor may recommend an alternative treatment method.
Parents, if your child has conjunctivitis, remember to encourage him to wash his hands often. Tell him to use warm water and soap. In addition, ask him to not share his food or toys with other children (including his siblings!). This will help curb the spread of infection to others.
Also, if your child is on TCM treatment and you decide to consult a Western doctor, tell the doctor about the TCM treatment. Similarly, if you take your child to a TCM practitioner while he is already on Western medicine.
This is crucial as taking certain herbs and pharmaceutical drugs at the same time can have a negative effect on health.
How do you treat your child's sore eyes at home? Share your remedies with us by leaving a comment.
References: Mother and baby, Holisticquid, Patient
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore