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8 weird things people do to treat conjunctivitis (Apollo) in Nigeria

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This is the conjunctivitis season in Nigeria. During this period, many people go about with the infection. Conjunctivitis is the infection of the eye, in layman’s terms. It is characterised by redness, pain and discharge. Medically, it is the inflammation of the conjunctiva – the thin clear layer of the eye. It is also called “red-eye or pink eye”. In Nigeria, conjunctivitis is frequently called “Apollo”.

Certain types of conjunctivitis are highly contagious, spreading easily in schools, daycare centres and at home. Although conjunctivitis is a minor eye infection most of the time, sometimes it can develop into a more serious problem.

It can be caused by allergy or infection. Infection could be bacterial or viral. In most cases, it affects both eyes and makes them bloodshot, burn or feel gritty, produce pus that sticks to lashes, itch, water and increased sensitivity to sunlight.

Common allergic causes are those causing irritation of the eye layer due to allergies in the environment, which include air pollution, smoke, pollen from trees and grass.

In most cases, conjunctivitis, is self-limiting.

8 weird things Nigerians do to treat “Apollo”.

1. Use of Human Urine

Some Nigerians wash their eyes with urine when they have Apollo. It is even as bizarre as some saying use of female urine is better than that of male. Some would even say use of early morning urine is the best.

One cannot help but wonder how they came about the fact that human urine can be used as a means of treatment for Apollo, let alone the category of urine. It is pertinent to mention that some of these beliefs are rooted in certain beliefs.

2. Use of Cow Urine 

This is another dimension to the urine saga – the use of cow urine. Like the use of human urine, proponents believe that first of all, urine is predominantly water. 

It is also argued that it contains certain antibacterial properties in itself, which could help fight off the infection. Others argue that urine is usually salty and so the salt in it will help fight the infection. Imagine!

3. Use of Onions

Onions has lacrimating property. In other words, it makes the eyes water. Those who argue in favour of this believe that by forcing the eyes to bring out water, it naturally helps to cleanse the eyes of the infection. 

So, people simply bring onions already made fresh by chopping close to the eyes. Sometimes, they simply squeeze out the fluid from the onions into the eyes. You can imagine the pain over pain that such an individual experiences.

4. Use of Procaine Penicillin with Alcohol

You see, there are many people who claim to know but are in actuality worse off than those they are guiding.  Someone shared the experience of a mother who came to his house on a Sunday afternoon and wanted to buy Procaine Penicillin for her child who had conjunctivitis.

When asked for what purpose, her answer was that someone told her that they should mix it (procaine penicillin) with alcohol and apply to the infected eye. Can you imagine?

5.Overnight  “Akamu” water 

“Akamu” is the Yoruba name for pap. The water from the fresh, unprepared (uncooked) pap that has been left overnight is recommended for washing the eyes and adding some, much the same way as eye-drops, into the infected eye. As always, people have got a defence for it.

What a weird world!

6. Use of Breast Milk

Perhaps because it is very common in children, mothers are often advised to apply breastmilk into the infected eyes of the child. The thinking is that because of the many benefits of breastmilk to a child, including protection against infections, then it must be able to kill any infectious agent it comes in contact with physically. It is also believed to have cleansing effects on the eye.

Nothing can be farther from the truth!

7. Use of Water and Sugar

I read a story on a forum some time ago about someone who said her sister was prescribed breastmilk for her Apollo but declined. However, she opted for water and sugar instead. And that the Apollo had disappeared after applying water and sugar solution! Talk of picking one of two evils.

8. Use of Petrol and Kerosene

On their own, petrol and kerosene are choky. Imagine someone applying it on their eyes just to treat conjunctivitis. It all boils down to the belief that making the eyes to cry – to shed some water – is a cleanser of some sort in itself! 

How did this even come about in the first place? Unthinkable

***There is no doubt that these measures are not recommended and will end up destroying the eyes. Never try them***

Most people who do not suffer serious consequences of their interventions, believe that it is their treatment style that worked. No. Because it is self-limiting most of the time, people are deceived to believr that their magic worked when in actuality, the infection had run its course.

What precautions can one take to prevent conjunctivitis?

There are three main goals of treatment of conjunctivitis:

  1. Improve patient comfort
  2. Shorten the course of infection
  3. Prevent spread of infection.   

Things  to do to help ease your symptoms.

According to NHS England:

Use clean cotton wool (one piece for each eye). Boil water and then let it cool down before you:
gently rub your eye lashes to clean off crusts; 
hold a cold flannel on your eyes for a few minutes to cool them down.

American Optometric Association says:

You can soothe the discomfort of viral or bacterial conjunctivitis by applying warm compresses to your affected eye or eyes. To make a compress, soak a clean cloth in warm water and wring it out before applying it gently to your closed eyelids.
For allergic conjunctivitis, avoid rubbing your eyes. Instead of warm compresses, use cool compresses to soothe your eyes. Over-the-counter eye drops might also help. Antihistamine eye drops can alleviate the symptoms, and lubricating eye drops can rinse the allergen off the surface of the eye.

 Things you can do to prevent spread

Practicing good hygiene is the best way to control the spread of conjunctivitis – American Optometric Association

  • Avoid touching your eyes with your hands.
  • Frequently wash your hands
  • Endeavour to change your towels and washcloth daily – and avoid sharing them.
  • Avoid eye cosmetics and do not share eye cosmetics.
  • Follow your doctors instructions.

When should you see your doctor?

NHS England recommends:

  • pain in your eyes
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • changes in your vision, like wavy lines or flashing
  • intense redness in one eye or both eye

These may be signs of more severe underlying eye problems. So, seek help!

It is important to note that not all conjunctivitis will require use of antibiotics. You doctor will be in the best position to help you decide.