Managing conjunctivitis in children
By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
Sadly, it is that time of the year again, “Apollo” season or more accurately Acute Haemmorrhagic Conjunctivitis (AHC).
This infection is usually seasonal and thought to be due to the colder harmattan weather at this time of the year. It is particularly more important for parents to know about this, as spread is most likely going to occur in schools and other childcare settings.
A lot of children have been made to stay at home after being infected. While this isn’t only common in children, adults too are victims of this flu.
However, while an adult may be able to adhere to rules on preventing the spread, children on their part may find it difficult sticking to rules, hence our role as parents in ensuring we curb and manage the condition properly.
According to medical practitioner and health blogger, Rasheedah Ayandipo, seasonal AHC is highly contagious and contrary to popular myth, “Apollo” is not spread by looking at someone with an infection.
It is mostly caused by viral infections that are spread through hand-to-eye contact by hands or objects that are contaminated with the infectious virus. Having contact with infectious tears, eye discharge, faecal matter, or respiratory discharges can also contaminate hands.
“Symptoms of AHC include redness of the eye, pain and itching. Other symptoms that have been reported include watering eyes and a sticky discharge usually around the eyelids. AHC can also be caused by bacteria or allergies, but viruses are the most common cause.
Viral AHC has no cure and will usually go away on its own within three to seven days. Bacterial AHC on the other hand can be treated with antibacterial eye drops. Lubricant and steroid eye drops can act to alleviate symptoms for all kinds of AHC.”
The mum of two noted that if your child has bacterial conjunctivitis, keep him or her away from school until treatment is started. Most schools and childcare facilities require that your child wait at least 24 hours after starting treatment before returning to school or childcare.
Children with viral conjunctivitis on the other hand may be contagious for a week or more but may return to school when the redness and discharge from eyes and other symptoms improve.
As a parent there are a few measures you can take to reduce the risk of spread such as:
. Wash your hands with soap and water often and also ensure kids wash their hands often at home and in school
. Reduce contact between hands and eyes for kids as well as adults
. Use only clean towels and avoid sharing towels within household
. Change your beddings and pillowcases often.
. Avoid swimming pools and other shared recreational facilities during infection
. Don’t share eye cosmetics or personal eye care items such as glasses
. Use any treatment prescribed for the prescribed duration
. Avoid using un-prescribed substances in the eyes such as kerosene, oil, urine etc as these may cause further damage or worsen symptoms
Dr. Ayandipo stressed that seasonal AHC spreads quite quickly such that soon after affecting one eye, the condition is known to infect the other eye in a short while.
As an infected person goes around their homes, school or work, the condition spreads. As such it is advised that onceinfected, the individual should keep a high level of personal and hand hygiene so that the rate of infection can be regulated.
Trivia point – AHC was nicknamed Apollo 11 disease, after the NASA Space Mission which took place in the same year the disease was first described -1969.