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If you, your spouse, or one of your children comes down with a case of pink eye (more formally, conjunctivitis), you need to act quickly and effectively to treat it and keep it from spreading to the rest of the family. First, you’ll need to know how to spot it early before it spreads to anyone else.

SYMPTOMS OF CONJUNCTIVITIS

If you have pink eye, you’ll likely feel like you have something gritty or itchy in your eye. Blinking and rubbing your eye won’t help, and neither will eye drops or flushing your eye with water. This is one of the most common early warning signs of conjunctivitis, and it can create a very easy means to spread the infection to your other eye and to other people.

Your mom and your doctor always told you not to touch your eyes, and they were right. If you feel like you have something in your eye, try blinking several times, and if that doesn’t work, try flushing the eye out with eye drops or clean water. If that doesn’t work, you will most likely experience more symptoms within the next few hours, including:

  • Excessive tearing
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Gummy discharge that becomes crusty as it dries
  • Swelling around the eye
  • Aching or pressure on the eye

CALL THE DOCTOR AND QUARANTINE THE PATIENT

Pink eye will sometimes go away on its own, if it is caused by a virus. However, most cases are caused by bacterial infection and will not get better without the aid of antibiotics. So, if you or one of your family members is exhibiting the symptoms of pink eye, it’s time to call the doctor and make an appointment as soon as possible.

In addition to calling the doctor, you can keep the infection from spreading to everyone by quarantining the infected patient from the rest of the family. Make sure that everyone washes their hands and that no one touches their faces, especially their eyes. Also…

Make sure no one is sharing makeup.
Throw away eye drops that you used before and during the infection, and do not share eye drops with anyone else.
Wash (and don’t share) towels, sheets, blankets, pillowcases, napkins, and/or handkerchiefs.
In general, make sure that the family member with the infection has as little contact with the rest of the family as possible until the infection subsides. Anything that comes in contact with the patient’s eyes should be thrown away or washed, and there should be no sharing of these items.

WATCH OUT FOR THESE SYMPTOMS

If you’ve been treated for pink eye, and you experience any of the following, call your doctor:

  • Blurred vision that doesn’t become clear after blinking several times
  • Increased or persistent eye pain
  • Light sensitivity

Likewise, if symptoms don’t subside after a few days or seem to get worse, call your doctor immediately. Most cases of pink eye only last a few days with antibiotics, so don’t hesitate to call for help if your case seems out of the ordinary in any way.

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