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Q&A on Eye Infections with Dr. Shirley

We asked Dr. Shirley some questions about Eye Infections and Eye Emergencies and here is what she had to say:

Q. What is an eye infection?

An eye infection occurs from bacteria, fungi, and/or viruses that invade the eyeball or eyelids. There are many different types of eye infections with different causes and treatments. The symptoms of an eye infection include: red eyes, pain, eye discharge or mucus, watery eyes, light sensitivity, swelling, and blurry vision. Anytime you think you may have an eye infection, you should visit your eye doctor for an exam to get the proper diagnosis and treatment.

Q. Are eye infections dangerous?

Anytime you think you may have an eye infection, you should contact your eye care provider for an examination. Trying to self-diagnose yourself can delay treatment and potentially harm your vision.

Q. Can my child go to school with an eye infection?

Many schools and day care centers require a child diagnosed with “pink eye” to stay home until the infection is completely resolved. This is a good idea because bacterial and viral eye infections can be very contagious and easily spread to other children especially in environments where children are in close contact with one another.

There are different types of pink eye or conjunctivitis and it can be difficult to determine how long the child is contagious or how long the child should stay home from school. A good rule of thumb is when all symptoms of pink eye are no longer present, usually about 3-7 days, the child can go back to school. This includes the eyes should be clear of all discharge, no longer red, and no crust on the eyelashes or corner of eye.

  • Pink eye caused by a bacterial infection is treated with antibiotic eyedrops. Usually, once a child has been on the antibiotic for 24 hours, the child is considered no longer contagious.
  • Pink eye caused by a viral infection needs to run its course. There is no treatment for a viral conjunctivitis. Sometimes, lubricating eye drops are used to relieve symptoms. Children with a viral pink eye should wait until symptoms resolve to go back to school.
  • Pink eye caused by allergies is not contagious. Allergic conjunctivitis is treated with allergy eye drops.

If you think your child has an eye infection, it is important to consult with your eye care professional to determine the type of pink eye and the proper treatment.

Q. What should I do if I spill chemicals in my eye?

A chemical eye injury is a true emergency and requires immediate evaluation and management. The most important thing to do when experiencing a chemical eye burn is to get the chemical out of the eyes. Initial treatment begins immediately at the time and place of the injury.

You want to flush the eyes out with cool water preferably from an eye wash station or tap water for at least 15 mintues.

If you are wearing contact lenses, remove them.

Contact your eye care provider or visit the nearest emergency room.

Q. What should I do if I get sand, metal, or wood, in my eyes?

A foreign body in the eye is an object such as sand, metal, or wood that shouldn’t be there. If you suspect you have something in the eye, is it important to contact your eye doctor. Do not rub your eye, as that could cause more damage. Your eye doctor may need to remove the foreign body to protect your eye against infection and damage.

To learn more about Eye Emergencies and Eye Infections, click here.