While red eyes can come from not getting enough sleep or just not blinking enough, they can also be a sign of infections or disorders. Pink eye is one of the most common ailments to your eyes, but many people have trouble distinguishing between pink eye and seasonal allergies. While the symptoms can overlap, they are two very different health issues. Getting the right treatment requires the right diagnosis. Here is more about pink eye and seasonal allergies and what sets the two apart.
Allergies vs Pink Eye: What’s The Difference?
Allergic eye irritation and “pink eye” are two different forms of the most common type of eye infection: conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, a moistening tissue inside the eyelid and on the white of the eyeball. There are four major types: allergic conjunctivitis, viral conjunctivitis, bacterial conjunctivitis (pink eye), and mechanical irritation conjunctivitis. If you’ve ever suffered from allergen-based eye itchiness, you’ve had allergic conjunctivitis. Seasonal allergens like pollen and grass, dust, mold, and animals will bring on all symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis evenly in both eyes: chronic eye itchiness and clear watery discharge. It is not contagious, but it’s very uncomfortable, so treat it with your basic allergy medicines or with eye drops. This should alleviate the irritation temporarily, but symptoms will persist as long as allergens exist.
How to Identify that your Child Has Eye Allergies
When eyes are itchy and pink, it may be a clear sign of conjunctivitis. An environmental allergic reaction can lead to a condition called allergic conjunctivitis. Unlike bacterial or viral conjunctivitis, allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and doesn’t require keeping your child out of school. A child suffering from allergic conjunctivitis may experience redness, swollen eyelids, itchy eyes and blurred vision. However, allergies are not going to produce the same kind of discharge that is the most common sign of an actual eye infection. Eye allergies can be managed with antihistamines or other pharmaceutical relief options, or by limiting exposure to allergens.
Causes of Pink Eye
When most doctors say “pink eye,” they are referring to its viral form. Viral conjunctivitis is the most common form of pink eye and is most commonly caused by adenovirus, a virus normally responsible for causing upper respiratory infections and sore throats. In some instances, viral pink eye may be caused by:
- Herpes simplex virus
- Varicella zoster virus
Prevention of conjunctivitis
Getting conjunctivitis isn’t particularly pleasant, and if you have physical symptoms, people won’t want you in school or in the workplace as it’s a contagious problem in some cases. Fortunately, preventing conjunctivitis is relatively simple if you follow these tips:
- Avoid sharing items like hand towels, wash cloths and towels.
- Wash your hands frequently at home and in public as well.
- Keep hand sanitizer or personal disinfectant with you. This is particularly important in a school or office setting, especially during the winter season when people are most susceptible to illness.
Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are the infectious forms of pink eye, and these are the ones that need to be monitored very closely. Although treatable, these conditions could have bad effects on vision if not treated quickly. Always consult with an eye doctor if symptoms arise or advance. Keep hands clean and away from the eyes, and try to stay clear of close interactions with others until symptoms improve.