Do you know what is more common than even the common cold? Conjunctivitis. Better known as the dreaded, highly contagious . . . dun, dun, dun. . . pink eye.

School-aged children are at greatest risk and The American Journal of Infection Control reports that 3 million school days are lost annually as a result of pink eye. The good news is that it’s a common infection that is easy to treat.

First things first, see your eye doctor immediately to confirm the diagnosis and for early treatment. After consulting with your eye care provider, rest assured in knowing this annoying condition is only temporary. It truly looks worse than it is. The viral form of conjunctivitis will run its course on its own within about a week, while recovery from the bacterial version can be speeded up with a short course of antibiotics.

In the meantime, it’s likely your little one is going to feel pretty uncomfortable. While you’re waiting for symptoms to subside, you can help provide relief for your child with some natural remedies. Here are a few tips:

1. Apply a compress. Use a wash cloth to create a warm or cold compress, whichever feels best to your child. A cool water compress will calm down inflammation and likely soothe the itching, while a warm, moist cloth reduces redness. You can apply this to the affected area for 5-10 minutes, three or four times each day. Be sure to use a different cloth for each eye in order to prevent any chance of spreading the infection.

2. Use over-the-counter eye drops. Over-the-counter eye drops, particularly products labeled as “artificial tears,” may relieve symptoms. If the underlying cause of the pink eye outbreak is due to allergic conjunctivitis, then eye drops with antihistamines in them may be helpful.

3. Clean the infected eye. Disposable tissues or wipes are helpful in preventing pink eye from spreading. When cleaning the eye, wipe from inside next to the nose, toward the outside. Use a clean surface of the cloth for each wipe, so eye drainage isn’t rubbed back across the eye. Make sure you and your child wash your hands frequently.

Your eye doctor may want to schedule a follow-up appointment to check on the healing process. While your school-aged patient is likely to ask you – more than once – when their schedule will allow for them to return to school, remind them to be patient as healing takes time.

If you or your child have questions about common eye problems like conjunctivitis and you don’t have vision insurance to help pay for those eye doctor visits, we invite you to consider getting an individual vision plan from VSP Direct. Check out our vision insurance plan rates and benefits for eye exams. With a vision insurance plan, you’ll be on your way to keeping your eyes healthy and saving money!