Pink eye puts an end to high fives

Pink eye puts an end to high fives

The Milwaukee Brewers have taken an unusual step of banning high fives during spring training games. This seemingly stuffy move had a professional purpose: stop the spread of pink eye.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is a very common inflammation of the conjunctiva (the thin, clear tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid) and the white part of the eyeball. This swelling makes blood vessels more visible and gives the eye a pink or reddish color.

In addition to the discoloration, Dr. Kamo Sidhwa, an infectious disease physician on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital, says that conjunctivitis can cause itchiness burning, increased sensitivity to light, gritty feeling in the eye and crusting of the eyelids or lashes.

While Dr. Sidwha explains that most cases of pink eye are mild and get better without treatment, its highly contagious nature can make it a real issue for a baseball team, or a typical family.

“Pink eye, caused by a virus or bacteria, is very contagious and spreads easily and quickly from person to person,” says Dr. Sidhwa.  “Research shows that people touch their face and eyes about 16 times per hour when they are awake providing ample opportunity for pink eye transmission.”

Since most pinkeye is caused by viruses there is usually no medical treatment, so preventing its spread is important, explains Dr. Sidhwa.

“Poor hand hygiene is the most common cause of spreading pink eye,” says Dr. Sidhwa. “To avoid catching conjunctivitis, or any communicable disease, your best bet is frequent hand washing.”

Dr. Sidhwa stresses that the majority of pink eye cases are mild and require no specific treatment. However, severe cases need to be looked at by a healthcare professional and may require treatment and close follow-up. She recommends seeking medical attention if you think you have pink eye and are experiencing:

  • Moderate to severe pain in your eye(s)
  • Blurred vision or increased sensitivity to light
  • Intense redness in the eye(s)
  • A weakened immune system, for example from HIV or cancer treatment
  • Bacterial pink eye that does not improve after 24 hours of antibiotic use
  • Symptoms that get worse or don’t improve

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About the Author

Nate Llewellyn
Nate Llewellyn

Nate Llewellyn, health enews contributor, is a manager of public affairs at Advocate Medical Group. Nate began his career as a journalist and builds daily on his nearly 20 years of writing experience. He spends most of his free time following his wife to their two sons’ various activities.