Nothing like pink eye invading the holiday spirit

Considering that red and green are the traditional colors of the winter holiday season, I suppose I could have regarded my bloodshot left eye as an opportunity to display my Christmas spirit. But to tell you the truth, I didn’t feel much in the mood to celebrate the December festivities with a case of pink eye.

After a couple of mornings waking up with my eyelids fused together over an extremely red, watery eyeball, I was pretty sure I had a case of conjunctivitis or “pink eye,” as it is commonly known.

I have had pink eye a few times in the past. Come to think of it, the last time I had it was also in December. That was back in 2002 when I was still teaching seventh-grade English, and we were on winter break.

As all school personnel eventually come to learn, pink eye is a common hazard in the world of education. “Wash your hands,” we say over and over to kids, “and use soap.”

The adults also are continually reminded that the best way to avoid getting sick is to keep hands as germ free as possible. We teachers placed bottles of hand sanitizer around our rooms and on our desks. Still, kids and adults alike would often discover they had the itchy, watery and red symptoms of the infection.

I’m not sure when the marketing of hand sanitizers became so common, but 33 years ago when I first started teaching, we ordinary educators did not have access to such hand disinfectants and had to rely on soap and water.

Officials at the Center For Disease Control have recommended since 2002 that health-care workers use high-quality, alcohol-based gels instead of soap and water when moving from patient to patient, so I am thinking they must have become popular around that time.

At any rate, after my 2002 bout with pink eye, I became sort of obsessive about cleaning my hands. I still am, according to some people, although I obviously wasn’t careful enough because I developed this latest infection.

Not too long after I had pink eye back in December 2002, I did a musical program for a Girl Scout patrol. One of the activities involved singing a song about washing hands. The song reinforces to this day my commitment to clean hands. It is sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”:

Washing hands is fun to do

It keeps germs off me and you

In our school or after play

We need to wash those germs away

After playing in the yard

Use some soap and scrub real hard

Maybe that song was written before hand gel, or maybe the author couldn’t think of a good rhyme for “sanitizer.” Still, whether you are a Girl Scout or not, it is good advice.

Other advice about avoiding pink eye includes covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing; avoiding rubbing and touching your eyes, and not sharing personal items such as washcloths and hand towels. Girls in my class would sometimes share mascara. I am pretty sure that is a no-no.

The three types of conjunctivitis are viral, bacterial and allergic. The viral and bacterial versions are highly contagious.

Although he didn’t go into great detail about it, my doctor must have determined that I had bacterial conjunctivitis because, as I learned later, that is the one which calls for antibiotic drops.

I have been following doctor’s orders to the letter and, with my wife’s help, putting the drops in my eyes. I have been kind of obsessive about it, actually. The red is going away, and I am starting to see the white of my left eye again.

Although the doctor’s office took a little bit of green from my wallet, I am happy to report I will be celebrating Christmas without red eyes.