A few days ago, I called my friend Sunita and enquired after her family. As soon as she received the call, I was able to sense that something was wrong. She sounded extremely tensed. On asking, she told me that her daughter Ria, had conjunctivitis. God, even a toddler can have conjunctivitis! This I was not aware of, at all.
A few days later, I found out that Ria was now doing well and she visited my house with her parents yesterday. The visit led to a long discussion between Sunita, her husband Keshav and me and I definitely learnt something from it.
Keshav said that conjunctivitis is caused due to an infection in the lining of the eyelids and the outer protective layer of the eye. The infection may also occur due to a virus and bacteria; though the former is probably a more common source of the infection.
Ria contracted conjunctivitis through a virus infection, which was why she was having symptoms typical of a common cold. To this, Sunita added that if a baby’s eyes starts to produce a thick yellow discharge, resulting in swelling of the eyelids or the eyelids starts to stick together; then the conjunctivitis are due to bacteria such as staphylococcus, streptococcus or hemophilus. Besides these types, there is a slightly more serious form of bacteria conjunctivitis called opthalmia neonatorum which occurs in newborns because of exposure to chlamydia and gonorrhoea during delivery.
On asking them how they figured out that Ria had conjunctivitis Sunita and Keshav said they were not able to understand that it was conjunctivitis at the very first instance. One fine morning, when Ria woke up, they noticed water draining from her eyes. Not giving it too much thought, they assumed it must be due to a lack of sleep. Then after a day, they noticed that her eyes had turned red and puffy, and a sticky coating developed on her eyelashes, followed by irritability and fever. That certainly scared the wits out of them. They immediately drove her to the paediatrician who confirmed that it was conjunctivitis.
When I asked them how they went about the treatment process, they told me that they followed the doctor’s advice to the letter. They always kept Ria’s eyes clean by washing it gently, several times a day with cotton wool soaked in tepid water. Tepid water is boiled water followed by a cooling process, in word lukewarm water. In addition, they also used an eye-drop prescribed by the doctor.
Sunita mentioned that in case other infants have other kinds of conjunctivitis, then the following methods of treatments are usually followed.
For chlamydial conjunctivitis, oral antibiotics are usually prescribed by the doctors; for gonococcal conjunctivitis, intravenous antibiotics are sometimes used; for chemical conjunctivitis, there is no medicinal treatment so far and the babies automatically get cured in 24 to 36 hours.
For prevention, Keshav said, they used a separate towel for Ria and were extremely particular and cautious about anyone using that towel. Also, they -made sure that their hands were always dirt-free, especially during cleaning their baby’s eyes.
Sunita and Keshav are-certainly more relaxed now because of their baby -has gotten over her first experience of conjunctivitis.