In this particular episode of Ask an Eye Doc, you will learn:
- Whether taking a family member’s eye drop medication is a good idea
Check out episode 17 to learn about when to see the optometrist if you have pink eye.
For you readers out there, here’s the answer in written form:
Here’s a great question that I received two weeks ago from two separate people. One was a family member, and one was a patient of mine:
If you have pink eye, can you use the same eye drops that were prescribed for pink eye for your child?
You would think that because your little child had pink eye and now you do, that it’s going to be the same infection, so the same medication that was prescribed for your child will also work for you.
The patient I saw actually had eye inflammation related to her contact lens wear. It was not an infection. Her child’s eye drops were sulfacetamide, which is an antibiotic that is effective in treating bacterial conjunctivitis, but would have done nothing for her eye inflammation.
My patient actually needed a steroid drop, not an antibiotic. This shows that not all pink eye that goes around in a family is the same.
The family member who asked me the same question is also a contact lens wearer, so it’s possible that her “pink eye” wasn’t the same as her daughter’s. Her daughter was prescribed ciprofloxacin eye drops, another antibiotic effective for treating bacterial conjunctivitis.
She actually didn’t have her daughter use the drops, and it resolved on its own. This could have been a case where a viral conjunctivitis was prescribed an antibiotic just in case it was bacterial. (Viral conjunctivitis resolves on its own after about 7 days).
It turns out this particular family member also had a recent upper respiratory infection (common cold), which is the same virus that causes viral conjunctivitis. So in her case, using her daughter’s eye drops was not likely going to do any good.
It’s difficult to say whether or not your pink eye can be treated with the same eye drops that were prescribed for another family member’s pink eye without having a proper diagnosis. My recommendation would always be to consult an optometrist before using anyone else’s eye medications, since using the medications may be ineffective at best, and damaging at worst.