1. What is the cause of conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the thin transparent membrane covering the inside of the eyelids and the whites of the eye.
There are several types of conjunctivitis, but the primary ones are:
1. Viral conjunctivitis
2. Bacterial conjunctivitis
3. Allergic conjunctivitis
Currently in St Vincent and the Grenadines there is an outbreak of viral conjunctivitis, otherwise known as the ‘red eye’, the same virus that can cause runny nose and sore throat in the common cold.
2. How long does it take before the symptoms of viral conjunctivitis manifests?
It varies, but it can take two to 14 days for the disease to manifest (incubation period), and the person may remain infectious for 10-14 days after symptoms develop.
The symptoms may last for seven to 21 days and in more than 50 per cent of cases, the other eye becomes involved.
After treatment, most people recover within three to four weeks, but there is a small group that complains of persistent blurry vision, who may need further rigorous treatment.
3. If I contract viral conjunctivitis, can it come back?
The answer is yes. That is why it is very important to take necessary precaution to prevent the spread of the virus.
4. What not to do if you have viral conjunctivitis.
Don’t use red eye reducing eye drops like Visine; they can make matters worse.
Be careful not to spread the infection to the other eye.
Avoid using medication that is not approved by your doctor. Some people put certain types of foods and herbal extracts that are not sterile. This could make matters worse.
In addition to the medication your doctor will prescribe, you can use artificial tears to lubricate the eyes and cool compressions.
5. Is breast milk good for viral conjunctivitis?
This is a common practice among breastfeeding mothers, because of the mild antibacterial properties of breastmilk. It is not advisable, mainly because breast milk may not be effective against virus-based infections, even though it won’t do any harm.
So, here are the precautionary measures once again:
1. Isolate the infected person
2. Wash your hands more frequently and thoroughly…more than 20 seconds
3. Use hand sanitizers
4. Do not share items – pillows, towels, linen, make up, eyedrops etc
5. Clean doorknobs and countertops with bleach
6. Avoid shaking hands
7. Of course, avoid touching your eyes.
Remember to keep an eye on your eyes.