Une conjonctivite

What does this mean? It’s pink eye, baby. I’m going to tell you about my experience (which I’m still living) as it relates to life in France and also give you some tips on how to get through the healing process.

While there are several different kinds of pink eye, mine is the bacterial variety. I can tell because I had the yellow-green discharge in spades the first day. Here is some fairly standard information you’ll find about the different types and treatment suggestions.

If you’re like me, you might have several unanswered questions about how to deal with it, especially in a foreign country and culture.

Who to see:

You can go to an ophthalmologist (ophthalmologue) or you can choose to see your general physician, like I did.

Getting medicine: General

You will need to make an appointment with your doctor to get your prescription and then head over to a nearby pharmacy to fill it. In France, I’ve never seen a prescription called in or put on auto-refill.

Instead, you’ll hold on to your prescription document and just take it to whichever pharmacy is most convenient for you. You have no obligation to return there, even to get a refill. The only reason I choose to return to a French pharmacy is if they stock a specific kind of medicine or a generic that I like, if the staff is friendly, and if their prices are good (there can be slight variations in France, depending on the size of the pharmacy).

Make sure to keep your prescription in a safe place where you can easily find it again later as it is essential if you need a refill or if you have questions about your medication later on.

Getting medicine: For pink eye

My doctor prescribed both antiseptic and antibiotic eye drops. The pharmacist told me that I was entitled to get compresses also. The compresses would have been partly reimbursed by social security and partly by a mutuelle (additional medical coverage that is either paid for through your work or that you pay for yourself). I don’t currently have a mutuelle, which isn’t the smartest move as it’s very cheap month-to-month, and their purpose is to reimburse you for the rest of the medical costs that your social security doesn’t pay for.

Read all the information about your meds:

Unfortunately for me, the antibiotic she prescribed is in the same family as one I’m allergic to. I would not have known this if I hadn’t read the notice on my medication and looked up the information online. You definitely don’t want to apply medication that you’re allergic to to an already irritated part of your body …

Speeding along the healing process:

Here is some great information for dealing with pink eye.

Keeping it clean:

To add to this, I would advise you to pick up some paper towels and potentially a fresh bar of soap or soap dispenser that you’ll only use during your pink eye because you are going to be washing your hands. A lot.

Make sure to have some hand lotion around to keep your hands from looking like this:

Guanajuato_mummy_03

Having the paper towels will allow you to thoroughly dry your hands on a new, clean surface each time instead of getting your regular hand towel repeatedly wet and potentially covered with germs, which could lead to getting pink eye in your healthy eye or giving it to someone else. Also, though I don’t normally use it, I strongly recommend hand sanitizer while you’re recovering from pink eye.

Non-medicated solutions:

Physiologica_S___5088f754488ec

You can find a sérum physiologique nasal oculaire (pictured above) usually intended for babies and kids but that’s also for adults. It’s basically little capsules of saline solution, which you can reuse under normal circumstances, but with pink eye, just toss them after one use.

I applied to my eye using a coton tige (cotton bud or Q-tip). This helped me clear away any discharge, and it’s a great way to clean out your eye and keep it moist.

Avoiding infecting your good eye:

Here’s my rule that (so far, fingers crossed, please God) has kept my healthy eye from getting infected: I do not touch my good eye unless I have just washed and completely dried my hands, and I have not touched anything else. I will touch the eyebrow or near the cheek bone with “dirty” hands, but I keep clear of the zone where I would normally apply any eye makeup or under-eye concealer with anything but the cleanest hands.

If I touch anything, I consider my hands dirty, and will only touch my infected eye. But I avoid touching doorknobs and light switches with my hands as much as possible to keep from spreading this stuff to my husband. I’m going to look up how to sanitize household surfaces without chemical-laden products here pretty soon.

I keep a special pack of tissues at the ready for if my eye gets watery/ leaky. Some will tell you to only use them once and then throw them away. This is good advice, but given all the other things I’m only using one time (i.e. my THREE kinds of eye drops, plus the paper towels…), I’ve chosen not to do this.

At night:

I sleep on the side of my bad eye as much as possible for several reasons 1) This allows any discharge to seep out of my eye instead of accumulating excessively 2) It keeps said discharge as far as possible from my good eye 3) It keeps my eye from crusting over completely overnight.

However, sleeping on your back is necessary from time to time as you’re likely to get a bit sore from being on just one side. Also, this will keep the infected side of your face from getting super puffy and swollen. I had to give myself a lymph-draining face massage the morning of my second day with pink eye.

Be aware:

Your clothes, your hair, your sheets and blankets, and anywhere you have touched after being in contact with your infected eye could carry the bacteria of your pink eye, and they need to be washed, disinfected, or thrown away. I’m planning on doing this once I’ve recovered.

But for right now, I’ll rotate my pillow and/ or change the pillow case, and I keep my sheets and blankets from touching high up on the side of my face with my healthy eye.

Stages of recovery:

This is just one person’s experience, so take it with a grain of salt.

Day 1: Woke up with my eye feeling quite dry and irritated as if I’d gotten sand in it. Lots of discharge throughout the day, which blurs your vision as the stringy stuff is finding its way out of your eye and feels uncomfortable. Lots of pressure and general discomfort/ pain as well as burning/ itching sensation. Painful, upper and lower lids, which became swollen throughout the day.

Day 2: Successfully kept my eye from being totally crusted shut in the morning and cleaned it with saline solution and cotton bud. Eye was quite swollen as was the left side of my face, which I’d slept on for most of the night. Eye was very red and irritated but had almost 0% mucus discharge the entire day. However, I did have a clear fluid leaking out occasionally, which I wiped away with tissues. This fluid made my vision a bit blurry. Used antiseptic drops and cleaned with saline solution when it felt very irritated. Lots of sinus pressure on infected side at night, had to massage the side with pink eye and sleep on back to relieve pressure.

Day 3: Much less discharge in the morning, which I again cleaned off with the saline solution. Eyelid much less swollen and noticeably less red. Eye feels slightly irritated. Using antiseptic and the saline solution. Little or no need for tissues as there’s virtually no clear discharge today. A big improvement.

I will update this tomorrow soon and also if any secondary infection occurs, which fingers crossed, it won’t! Here’s some final information about what causes pink eye. Good luck and bon courage!

UPDATE: I believe I got pink eye because I had a mild case of strep recently. I could easily have coughed or sneezed on the sleeve of the sweater that I wore to bed the night that I contracted it and transferred the streptococcus bacteria to my eye (strep bacteria is a known cause of bacterial conjunctivitis).

The bad news: My husband got my pink eye in both eyes… 😦

The good news: He was able to begin treatment immediately because I couldn’t use the antibiotic, so his lasted about two full days and was gone by day three.

The lesson I learned: Avoid touching your infected eye directly with your hands even if it’s past the gooey green mucus phase. If you do touch your bad eye, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer immediately after any contact to prevent spreading your pink eye.

Helpful tidbit: I consulted my Ophthalmologist in the States, and he told me that you cease to be contagious when you no longer have any discharge coming from your infected eye. People with bacterial pink eye, be aware that after Day 1, 99.9% of the oozing happens at night, so you’ll want to check your eye for discharge in the morning.

People with viral pink eye, your is much harder to gauge because you don’t get the gooey green stuff. Consult your doctor for further information.

So with no antibiotics and only antiseptic drops, I was no longer contagious after about 6 days, with my eye looking normal after about 4 or 5 days. My husband was no longer contagious after about 48 hours with immediate antibiotic and antiseptic treatment.