Eye Infections in Kids

Pink eye isn’t the only eye problem found in babies and children that parents should be aware of, a CHOC Children’s infectious disease specialist says. eye infections

Here are some other eye issues that Dr. Negar Ashouri recommends parents keep on their radars:

  • A stye (or sty): This is a small, painful lump, usually found on the inside or outside of the eyelid. It’s an occlusion of the glands around the eye and can become infected but does not affect vision. Applying a warm compress to the eye a few times daily will help it drain and heal. Eye drops can help if it’s infected.
  • Blocked tear duct: Infants’ tear ducts can sometimes get blocked, making the inner eye close to the nasal bridge appear swollen. This typically can happen in the first few weeks of life and does not affect vision. A parent or caregiver can massage the area to help open the duct, and often it will open on its own. If not, eye drops will help.
  • Herpes infections in or around the eye: Children can get a herpes viral infection of the eye. This occurs after close contact with someone who has a cold sore (i.e. kisses) or from autoinoculation from HSV in the mouth. After the primary infection, it can also reactivate at a later time.

If parents notice small red bumps or blisters on the skin around the child’s eye and also redness in the eye, call a medical professional.

“You do need to seek medical care for this because the child can be put on anti-viral medication,” Dr. Ashouri says. “This is a dangerous problem because it can lead to blindness.”

Dr. Ashouri says it’s important to call the doctor or seek medical help for any of these problems or an eye infection if these symptoms are accompanied by visual changes or the eye becomes very red.

Learn more about infectious disease services at CHOC.

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Tips to Make Eye Drops Easier for Kids – and Parents

Administering eye drops to small children can be difficult for parents and kids alike – and rest assured, it isn’t always easy for doctors, either.

“It’s daunting at times for parents and physicians,” says CHOC Children’s ophthalmologist Dr. Sidney Weiss.

Eye drops may be prescribed for a variety of conditions including infections, allergies and dry eyes, pupil dilation in advance of an ophthalmologist appointment, and medical diagnosis therapies, he says.

And because eye drop administration can be challenging, Dr. Weiss has a few tips to help smooth this process.

Working with a partner

With the help of a parent, older children can receive eye drops while seated or standing, with their head tilted back so that their eyes create a horizontal plane, Dr. Weiss says. After age 10, children can try with supervision to administer the drops themselves.

However, giving drops to infants and children up to age 3, as well as some older children with developmental delays, can be especially challenging and often requires restraining the child. In these cases, parents should try to find a partner to help.

Try laying the child on the floor, in a chair or in someone’s lap. While one person holds the child’s arms and legs still, the other can administer the drops. Dr. Weiss recommends asking the child to open his eyes and look back as far as possible, as if he were trying to see the back of his head.

While gently holding the child’s upper eyelid open, lightly pinch together the bottom eyelid to create a small pouch. Squeeze the drops into the pouch and ask the child to keep the eye closed for 30 seconds.

The drop administrator should also put a finger over the closed eyelid near the inner corner to prevent absorption of the medicine into the tear duct, which can be harmful.

Going solo

Should a parent need to restrain the child to administer drops and another person isn’t available to help, Dr. Weiss suggests this method:

While sitting on the floor, the parent should lay the child in his or her lap, with the child’s head at the parent’s abdomen facing the ceiling and the child’s legs extending along the parent’s legs. Place the child’s arms under the parent’s legs. The parent can also wrap one leg around the child’s legs to keep him or her still.

Administer the drops using the method described above.

Working around closed eyes

Sometimes, even with another grownup to help, kids just won’t open their eyes, Dr. Weiss says.

In these cases, take advantage of closed eyes with this technique: Have the child lie down with their eyes closed. Place the drops in the inner corner of their eyes to create a little pool of medicine. Once the child opens his or her lids, the drops will dribble into their eye, Dr. Weiss says.

“This may waste some medicine, but any port in a storm,” he says, adding that this method can also work while the child sleeps.

General eye drop tips

Besides positioning, parents can try a few other techniques to make administering eye drops easier and safer, Dr. Weiss suggests:

  1. Before administering, parents should take a minute to double check that they are using the correct drops.
  2. Gather all necessary materials (drops, tissues, wash cloths, etc.) and wash hands before and after administering eye drops to a child.
  3. To avoid contamination, don’t touch the tip of the bottle to any surface, including the eye, eyelid or eye lashes. Use alcohol to sanitize the tip if there’s any chance of contact.
  4. Try to appear as relaxed as possible. Babies and children can tell if their parent or caregiver is distraught and will respond accordingly.
  5. Try to create a calm, soothing environment and explain to older children what you’re doing and why.

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Tips to Protect Your Child from Eye Injuries

Bet you didn’t know October is Eye Injury Prevention Month? While most children’s eye injuries are minor, others, like those that often occur in sports and recreational activities, can be serious and require medical attention.

Check out the following tips to protect children’s eyes from injury:
• Keep all chemicals and sprays out of reach of small children.
• Only purchase age-appropriate toys.
• Avoid projectile toys such as darts.
• Along with sports equipment, provide your children with the appropriate protective eyewear.
• Ensure there are no sharp corners on the edges of furnishings and home fixtures.
• Provide appropriate lights and handrails to improve safety on stairs in the home.
• Beware of items in playgrounds that pose potential eye hazards.
• Remind your children not to play or run with sharp objects such as scissors, a fork or pencil.

Should your child suffer an eye injury, keep these guidelines in mind.

If you think your child has small debris in the eye or a minor irritation, be sure to:
• Wash your hands thoroughly before touching the eye area.
• Tilt the child’s head over a basin or sink with the affected eye pointed down.
• Gently pull down the lower lid.
• Gently pour a steady stream of lukewarm water over the eye.
• Flush the eye for up to 15 minutes, checking every 5 minutes to see if the foreign body has been flushed out.

Seek medical care if your child has:
(Even if the injury seems minor at first, as a serious injury is not always immediately obvious)
• been struck or poked in the eye with a ball or other object
• a swollen, red, or painful area around the eye or eyelid
• an eye that’s very sensitive to light

Seek emergency medical care if your child has:
• trouble seeing
• been exposed to chemicals
• something embedded in the eye
• severe eye pain
• blood in the eye
• nausea or vomiting after an eye injury

While seeking medical help, remind your child not to rub his or her eyes. A cut or puncture wound should be gently covered. Do not apply ointment or medication to the eye.

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Protect Your Child’s Vision

An eye injury can occur at any time, in any place. Adequate prevention is important because most eye injuries can be prevented.

Almost half of all eye injuries occur in sports and recreational activities, and more often in children and teens than any other age group, according to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. The American Academy of Ophthalmology also says sports deserve particular attention because eye injuries occur fairly often in children and young adult athletes.

Dr. David Sami, a CHOC pediatric ophthalmologist and pediatric eye surgeon, recommends that children playing certain sports wear protective goggles, sport goggles or a mask of some kind to protect the eyes. Dr. Sami notes that certain sports in particular carry a higher risk for eye injuries, such as sports that use a small ball or puck, like golf and hockey. Paintball and racquet ball also are a concern.

When it comes to eye and vision protection, the sun’s rays and excessive screen time, especially on a small cellphone screen, also tend to raise parents’ concerns, says Dr. Sami.

“Parents often worry about the sun damaging eyes,” says Dr. Sami. “The boney rim above the eye, the eyelashes, eyebrows and pupils all provide natural defenses against the sun. There is no problem against wearing sunglasses but I’m a bigger fan of kids wearing hats or caps because hats also protect the skin from future skin cancer, as well as protecting the eyes from the sun. Sunglasses are an effective measure but a hat offers greater protection,” he says.

What about the concern over children spending several hours a day looking at small screens on mobile device? Dr. Sami says there is no evidence to date that looking at a screen for long periods of time will damage your eyes. However, he says, excessive screen time does limit kids’ world experience because it stops them from doing other healthy activities like playing outside.

“There is no known danger to the eyes from a screen but you’re missing out on playing and the physical and emotional development that is so important.”

Here are some other tips to protect children’s eyes from injury:

• Keep all chemicals and sprays out of reach of small children.
• Only purchase age-appropriate toys.
• Avoid projectile toys such as darts.

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Tips to Maintain Good Vision

It’s Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month! Healthy eyes and vision are an important part of a child’s development. Check out these easy tips recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for maintaining both your and your child’s good vision.

1. Protect your eyes.
• Just like when you wear pads to protect your joints during sports, you also need to protect your eyes. Wearing a pair of sunglasses is one of the best defenses. Not only does it keep give another layer of protection, but buying a pair of sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection also blocks UV light, which can cause long term damage to the eyes.
• Wear protective eyewear during activities that have potential to harm your eyes. A few examples may include science labs, workshops, and contact sports.

2. Know your stuff.
• It’s important to know your family’s eye health history, since many eye diseases are hereditary. Talk to your family members so you can find out if you’re at a higher risk for a certain eye disease.

3. Don’t strain your eyes!
• Activities like watching TV or staring at a computer screen have the potential to strain your eyes if you do them for too long. When we stare, our blink rate goes down from 10 times a minute to 2 or 3 times a minute. It helps to change your focus from time to time- look away from the TV for a few seconds before resuming your program.
•  If your eyes start to feel dry or irritated while watching TV or using a computer, use artificial teardrops to add back some moisture.

4.  Eat well, see well.
• It’s important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet in order to maintain good vision. You’ve heard that foods rich in Vitamin A are good for your eyes, which is true. Spinach, kale, and carrots are all known for their high levels of Vitamin A. But it is also important to eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids- like salmon, tuna, and almonds. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important.

5. Stay clean.
• Most eye diseases are spread through physical contact, so it is important to always wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes or putting in contact lenses.
• Avoid sharing eye drops or makeup with anyone else, and never touch the top of the bottle of eye drops with your hands, as the germs from your fingers can spread to your eyes.
• If your eyes start to become irritated, red, or you begin to notice other changes, contact your doctor to have them checked.

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