Conjunctivitis is spreading across the country. Here’s what you need to know about the virus

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Many of us eagerly anticipate outdoor adventures and joyous activities during the summer. However, amidst the summer joys lies a health concern we all need to be mindful of – summer conjunctivitis. This eye condition can lead to discomfort and irritation, potentially disrupting daily activities and causing missed workdays.

It is essential for everyone to comprehend this seasonal eye condition and take appropriate preventive measures to safeguard our eye health during the warmer months.

Recent outbreaks in Nepal

As the summer season arrives, Nepal faces a recurring challenge with numerous cases of conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, surfacing in different regions.

The incessant rainfall over recent weeks has contributed to the spread of this eye infection in the Tarai region, Kathmandu Valley, and other provinces. The situation is worsened by waterlogging in several regions, and with the monsoon season underway, there has been a significant surge in conjunctivitis and eye flu cases.

The unusual showers, flooding, and higher atmospheric moisture levels have created an ideal environment for the proliferation of bacteria and viruses, resulting in a drastic increase in infections. The rise in humidity and water contamination further exacerbates the nationwide spike in conjunctivitis cases.

Causes and transmission

Summer conjunctivitis can stem from various sources, making us all susceptible to exposure. The main causes and modes of transmission include:

  1. Viral and bacterial infections: Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis spread easily through direct or indirect contact with infected respiratory droplets or eye secretions, especially in public places with close proximity among people.
  2. Allergens: During summer, pollen becomes a common allergen that can trigger allergic conjunctivitis. Spending time outdoors can expose us to pollen, leading to itching, redness, and watery eyes.
  3. Irritants: Engaging in outdoor activities like swimming in chlorinated pools or spending time in sandy areas can expose us to irritants such as chlorine or sand, causing conjunctivitis symptoms in susceptible individuals.

Recognising symptoms

Awareness is the first step towards overcoming any challenge. Recognising the symptoms of summer conjunctivitis is vital for early detection and prompt management. Keep an eye out for the following hallmark signs:

  • Red or pink eyes: The eyes may appear reddish or pink due to inflammation of the conjunctiva.
  • Itchiness and irritation: Discomfort and frequent rubbing or touching of the eyes may occur.
  • Excessive tearing: Watery eyes or increased tear production may be noticeable.
  • Discharge: Some types of conjunctivitis may cause a clear, watery discharge, while others may result in thicker, sticky eye secretions.
  • Photophobia: Sensitivity to light can lead to squinting or avoiding bright light sources.

Prevention and hygiene measures for everyone

To protect ourselves and others from summer conjunctivitis, we can take specific preventive measures:

  1. Educate everyone: Raise awareness about proper hand hygiene and the importance of avoiding touching their eyes. Encourage reporting any discomfort or changes in their eyes promptly.
  2. Hand washing: Promote regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before meals and after using shared items.
  3. Avoid sharing personal items: Advice against sharing personal items such as towels, pillows, or eye drops with others.
  4. Use eye protection: During outdoor activities, wear appropriate eye protection, such as goggles, to limit exposure to potential irritants.
  5. Stay informed: Stay informed about pollen levels and peak allergy periods, and consider modifying outdoor activities accordingly.
  6. Encourage prompt medical attention: If you experience symptoms of conjunctivitis, seek medical advice promptly for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

What to do if you have conjunctivitis?

In case you are diagnosed with conjunctivitis, follow these steps:

  • Use prescribed medicine: Adhere to the medication prescribed by a doctor as per the recommended dosage and duration.
  • Avoid excessive eye washing: Refrain from washing the eyes repeatedly but keep them clean with a wet cotton swab.
  • Wear glasses: Use glasses to prevent touching your eyes, as the virus can spread through contact.
  • Address associated symptoms: If conjunctivitis is accompanied by a sore throat, viral infection, or fever, provide paracetamol or consult a doctor.
  • Use a cold compress: Apply a cold compress on the swelling to ease discomfort.
  • Avoid crowded places: As long as your eyes are red or have a sticky discharge, the virus may still be present. Avoid crowded places, offices, or schools until you have fully recovered.

As the summer season approaches and we all engage in various outdoor activities, the risk of summer conjunctivitis becomes more prevalent for everyone.

Let’s be vigilant and take necessary precautions to protect our eye health. By staying informed, educating ourselves, and taking preventive measures, we can ensure a safer and healthier summer for all. Remember, seeking professional medical advice is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Together, we can safeguard our eye health and make the most of the summer season!

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GC is a research faculty at Kathmandu Research Institute for Biological Sciences (KRIBS).

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