Omicron subvariant XBB.1.16: Conjunctivitis may be the latest symptom, here’s how to manage the eye condition

With every new Covid-19 variant comes one or the other new symptom. From loss of smell and taste to muscle pain, cough and cold to breathing problems – as the coronavirus infection evolved, its symptoms kept changing. According to latest reports, doctors have pointed out that the new Omicron subvariant XBB.1.16 may cause conjunctivitis – red and itchy eyes, especially in babies and young children.

A non-purulent, itchy conjunctivitis with sticky eyes is now prevailing, and was not seen as commonly in earlier waves, Dr Srikanth R, Ophthalmologist, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Chennai, tells Health Shots.

“Of late, a lot of children have been developing conjunctivitis post Covid-19 infection. This is due to the latest Omicron sub-variant XBB 1.16. The general trend seen is in treated infants with high fever, cold and cough,” says Dr Srikanth.

Covid is spreading rapidly in India again
Covid is spreading rapidly in India again. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The summer season makes people more susceptible to conjunctivitis, which is also known as Madras Eye or Pink Eye. It is a contagious condition that affects the conjunctiva, which is the thin, transparent layer that covers the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. This condition can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection (Adenoviral Conjunctivitis), or by an allergic reaction.

Symptoms of Conjunctivitis

The signs of conjunctivitis include redness, swelling, itching, watering of the eyes, and a discharge that may form crusts around the eyelids. The infection can be spread from person to person through contact with contaminated surfaces, such as towels, door handles, and eye drops. This infection can impact any age group.

Fortunately, there are several steps one can follow to prevent the spread of Conjunctivitis and reduce the risks of contracting the infection.

Tips to prevent conjunctivitis

1. Wash hands as frequently as possible

Make sure to wash hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after touching the face or coming into contact with someone who has Conjunctivitis. Use soap and warm water, and dry the hands with a clean towel. Here are some tips on how to wash your hands properly to avoid infections such as Covid-19 or conjunctivitis.

2. Avoid touching the eyes

Try to avoid touching the eyes with hands as much as possible. To ensure that touching of eyes does not cause any complications, one needs to regularly wash hands and keep them clean.

Avoid touching eyes during Covid
Avoid touching eyes during Covid-19. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Use a clean towel

Use a clean towel to dry the face and hands, and avoid sharing towels with others.

4. Avoid sharing personal items

Do not share personal items such as pillows, bedspreads, eye drops, or makeup with others.

5. Stay away from infected individuals

Avoid close contact with individuals who have Conjunctivitis until they have fully recovered.

6. Wear sunglasses

Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from dust and other irritants that can cause Conjunctivitis. Dark glasses are recommended to avoid photosensitivity.

7. Keep the surroundings clean

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops, and bathroom fixtures.

8. Avoid using contact lenses

Using contact lenses must be avoided until the infection has been completely cleared.

Protect your eyes from ,conjunctivitis in summer
Protect your eyes from conjunctivitis in summer. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

9. Seek medical attention

If one develops symptoms of Conjunctivitis, it is recommended to seek medical attention immediately. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medication and may recommend that the affected individual stays at home from work or school until the infection has cleared up. It is highly recommended to visit the doctor at the earliest to start treatment and use the medications as advised diligently.

However, the main forms of treatment for this illness involve using eyedrops and giving the eyes rest by limiting screen time. Also, it is recommended that the infected individual keeps a watch on the vision of each eye separately every morning to detect early corneal involvement.

As Covid-19 cases continue to rise, it is best to be safe than sorry. Take the right precautions to protect yourself from coronavirus and its symptoms.

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