Spring brings flowers and rain to Slippery Rock University’s campus, but it also brings pink eye and allergies.
Kris Benkeser, director of the health center, explained that the medical name for pink eye is conjunctivitis and that there are three different types: bacteria, viral and allergic. She said that allergies peak for students in the fall and spring, so allergies and pink eye go hand and hand.
“Pink eye tends to be seasonal, so we start to see it early spring,” Benkeser said.
Within the past three years, the health center has seen 422 cases of pink eye: from June 2011 to May 2012, 154 cases, from June 2012 to May 2013, 153 cases and from June 2013 to May 2014, 115 cases.
“Usually when students come in with pink eye, they know they have a problem,” Benkeser said.
Benkeser said that allergic pink eye is starting now, as flowers start to bloom and that it also happens in the fall when flowers and leaves disintegrate.
She said that someone with allergic pink eye will look like they are crying and that the main symptoms are itchy, red eyes. She explained that the eyes water because the eye is trying to push the allergen out.
When a person has allergic pink eye, she said that person is more than likely facing other symptoms as well, so the health center will examine the face as a whole.
Benkeser recommends using a cool compress for allergic pink eye because it will feel soothing.
She said that bacteria pink eye happens when bacteria comes in contact with the eye. She said it can happen to someone who blows their nose and then touches their eye or to someone who puts in contact lenses with dirty fingers.
Benkeser said that someone with bacteria pink eye will have red, irritated, burning eyes and may experience crusted eyes in the morning.
She said that it is important that a person who requires contacts and/or glasses and has bacteria pink eye throws away their contacts and/or gives their glasses a good cleaning. She also added that eye makeup can breed the bacteria, so that will need to be thrown away too.
Benkeser said that the most common form of pink eye that the health center sees is viral.
“Ninety-five percent of upper respiratory infections are viral,” Benkeser said.
Viral pink eye may happen after having a cold and causes tearing, painless red eyes.
Unlike allergic pink eye, Benkeser recommends using a warm compress for bacteria and viral pink eye. The warm compress will remove the buildup of mucus in the eyes.
Benkeser said that an adult with pink eye, as long as they are washing their hands, does not pose a threat to anyone else.
“What we worry about most with pink eye is little kids,” Benkeser said. “Pink eye doesn’t really pose a threat to anyone else.”
She said that people never really realized that good hand washing is the key ingredient to not just prevent the spread of pink eye, but other illnesses and diseases as well.
“I just read an article about how cell phones are one of the most dirtiest things,” Benkeser said. “It’s in your pocket, in your purse, in your backpack, in your hands.”
Benkeser said that the best way for students to avoid pink eye and stay healthy is by washing their hands.