Outbreak of conjunctivitis: Know how to prevent

Viral conjunctivitis is a contagious disease caused by viruses (usually by adenovirus) that causes inflammation of the conjunctiva (a thin, transparent membrane that covers the white part of the eye) and can be confused with other types of conjunctivitis.

When in the mildest form, it can also be confused with allergic conjunctivitis (which is not contagious) and be neglected by the patient, as it does not give many symptoms and does not cause eye discomfort, except an intense itch. However, even in these cases, viral conjunctivitis is contagious, and the infected person will not always manifest the disease in a mild manner.

In addition, it can be confused with bacterial conjunctivitis or even be associated, in more severe cases, with the contamination of opportunistic bacteria.

Know the symptoms of this disease

Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis vary according to the intensity of the disease, the most common of which are itching, swelling of the eyelids, watery eyes, little or no secretion. In some cases, there is eye pain and sensitivity to light, and redness in the eyes (red-eye), which can be mild or quite intense.

It lasts for an average of 5 to 7 days and usually affects one eye (unilateral), but it can affect both eyes, with the second eye being milder. In the most severe cases, it affects both eyes, with significant swelling, more yellowish discharge, severe eye pain, the formation of a film (which we call a pseudo membrane) and very red eyes (hemorrhagic conjunctivitis). In this case, the average duration can reach up to 21 days and there is a need for a “scraping” to remove the pseudo membrane.

The intensity of the disease is usually linked to the individual’s immunity: the lower, the more severe, and the higher, the lighter, but this is not a rule, nor is anything in medicine.

Some patients may report a flu-like condition before, during or after conjunctivitis. This is because the main causative agent of this type of conjunctivitis is Adenovirus, which also causes pharyngoconjunctival fever. In these cases, the symptoms can be general malaise, moderate to high fever, pain to swallow, nausea behind or just below the ears (pre-auricular lymphadenopathy) and, in more extreme cases, impaired airways and hospitalization.

How to avoid being contaminated or contaminating?

We usually say that the virus has no wings and is not transmitted through the air, but through direct contact with the hands, and that is why hand hygiene is fundamental.

Do not share face towels, pillowcases and makeup, avoid placing your hand over your eyes and, in the event of an outbreak or suspicion of conjunctivitis, avoid shaking hands, kisses on the cheeks and/or closer contact with the infected person. Use gel alcohol for hand hygiene (when on the street) or running water and soap.

Avoid taking your child to school or day care when his eyes are red or have dawn glued, as the risk of contaminating other children is high and the spread of the disease will be rapid. It is also recommended that you stay away from group activities or gyms, work in collective areas where there is a possibility of mass contamination.

When arriving at the doctor’s office with suspected conjunctivitis, avoid placing your hands on door handles, armchairs, picking up magazines, among other preventive measures so that other patients are not contaminated with the disease, since there is no isolation area for patients contaminated.

When you notice the symptoms, see an ophthalmologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment for symptom relief, but remember that the medication prescribed for one patient may not work for another, even if they are from the same family.

Treatment, recommendations and tips:

  • Treatment will vary according to the age group and the degree of involvement of the disease in each individual.
  • It is important to note that not all red eye is conjunctivitis.
  • Avoid using saline or boric water. Cold filtered water or mineral water can be used to make compresses, and running water to wash the eyes.

The average time of evolution of this disease can vary from 5 to 21 days depending on the severity