The moment my 3-year-old woke up today, I knew we were in for a long morning. His eye was red and gunky, and he was rubbing it vigorously. Pink eye strikes again, for the second time in a week. It seemed like it was awfully soon for a relapse to me -- like maybe the previous drops hadn't worked. Like maybe it was time to call out the big guns.
Two hours later, in the examining room at The Children's Clinic in Ladue, I discovered that the big guns were not going to be called. Instead, our health care provider placed the blame on a failure of the front-line defenses -- namely, hand-washing. She explained that it's not surprising a child who's in preschool four days a week would have recurring conjunctivitis (aka pink eye), even as often as once or twice a month, and that based on his symptoms, she thought a bacterial infection was likely given his symptoms. There are other causes too, like viruses, allergies or plugged tear ducts, and they all have different symptoms, which is why pediatricians generally want to see children with red, itchy or swollen eyes rather than diagnosing them over the phone. Pink eye is extremely contagious, especially among kids because they rub their eyes and touch each other's toys. At this point in our conversation, she turned her full attention to the 3-year-old and said, "Keep your hands away from your face, OK?" He agreed readily, no doubt thinking of the purple dinosaur he was going to score for being a model patient.
His preschool class has been studying germs this winter -- some of it through first-hand experience, unfortunately -- but amid all the lessons on hand-washing and coughing into your elbow and tissue use, I don't remember hearing anything about not touching your face. That's one lesson my 3-year-old will be hearing over and over and over from now on.
Amy De La Hunt is a journalist and editor who lives in the St. Louis metro area and works across the country as a writer, copy editor, project manager and editorial consultant on everything from fiction books to monthly magazines to blog posts. When she's not chauffeuring her teenage sons to activities, Amy is an enthusiastic amateur cook, landscaper, Latin dancer and traveler. Follow Amy on Instagram @amy_in_words
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