Eye infections, particularly those that are contagious, can spread very quickly. Many of you are probably familiar with this scenario: your child comes home from preschool with a red, infected eye (“pink eye”) that they inherited from a classmate. Ever wonder why it spreads so quickly in that environment? In short, it’s because kids will be kids and they’re taught to share. This means they share crayons and share or trade lunch items, just to name a few. Any of these items, if touched by a child who has a contagious infection, can help spread the infection to another child. This is why it’s not unusual for an eye infection to spread to an entire class. Although you can teach them to be cautious, you can’t watch them 24 hours a day, particularly not when they’re at school. Infections can also spread at home and in the workplace. In these environments, you have more control and can practice simple contagious precautions to help prevent the spread of infections and to ensure that you don’t re-infect yourself.
It’s important to note that infections are not only spread by direct contact. Infections, more specifically the bacteria or viruses that cause infections, can also enter the body through the nose and mouth. The infectious period should be determined by an eye doctor, but generally is only considered over when there is no longer eye discharge and the redness is completely gone. It’s during this time that the following tips are the most important.
Here are the basics of contagious precautions:
- Wash your hands frequently. Click here for the proper way to wash your hands to best prevent the spread of infection.
- Wash surfaces in high traffic areas frequently.
- Do not share food or beverages.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash your hands before and after using eye drops.
- Do not share or reuse washcloths, towels or pillowcases.
- The above should be changed after each use and washed thoroughly.
- Try not to touch your eyes, or the area around your eyes.
- If you are being treated for an eye infection, try not to touch the eye, eyelids or eyelashes with the eye drop bottle, to avoid contamination.
- Do not share eye drops, mascara or eyeliner.
- Eye makeup should be thrown away and replaced, only to be resumed when the eye infection is completely cleared and no longer contagious.
- If you wear contact lenses, these should be discontinued and thrown away immediately upon the first sign of infection. Contact lenses should only be resumed under the supervision of an eye doctor.
Infections can spread quickly, but practicing the above contagious precautions is a great way to prevent this from happening. Many of these precautions can also help prevent the spread of other contagious viruses and infections. It’s flu season, so putting at least the first 6 tips above into practice both at work and at home could help prevent you, your family and coworkers from coming down with the flu as well.
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