Monday, November 24, 2008

Inadvertant germ messanging

So the whole germ discussion we had before.... Since last week, my daughter has had pinkeye. It's the viral kind, not painful kind; it just makes her eyes red. So the message of pinkeye is that if you have a "germ" (at least this one) you will be socially stigmatized and not able to go to school. You will need to spray your hands with antibacterial spray before you touch babies. (And you really should try to stay away from babies.) If people know you have pinkeye they will want to keep you at arms length. You should really just stay home in your pajamas and watch TV.... In the middle of the fall out of the dreaded pinkeye, I've been trying to bring up that there are different kinds of "germs" and that some are easy to spread and some are hard to spread. I can't help thinking that this is confusing, given that we've been talking about her having a germ in her blood, and that it just requires being careful about putting on bandaids if she gets a cut...

And another thing! The policy of the school with regard to pinkeye actually is contrary to public health principles (and social justice!). The school district requires a student with pinkeye to be "under a doctor's care" getting treatment, which implies that the child is being treated with antibiotic eyedrops, which would be the case if the conjunctivitis were bacterial. But in most cases, it is viral, in which case antibiotic eyedrops are a waste of time. In that case, you have to bring a note from the doctor saying you are not contagious. But it takes several days for the infection to go away, and in the meantime the child is missing school and being shunned from society as a whole. So the incentive is for parents to pressure doctors to give them antibiotic eyedrops so children can go back to school and everyone can go on with their lives, red eyes and all. All that might be okay, but everyone using antibiotic eyedrops when there is no reason to will cause a rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria, leading to less treatable pinkeye. Not to mention the costs to the economy for doctor visits, unnecessary eye drops, missed work, missed school, etc etc etc. Obviously there are children with pinkeye attending my child's school. That's where my child got hers. What exactly is the problem with viral pinkeye? Children can learn with red eyes can't they? But they can't learn if they are excluded from school. I need to get the American Academy of Pediatrics on this... If they came out with a policy statement on lice, surely this is just as important!

BTW, she feels fine, she just has red eyes. :)

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