| Chinese eye flu is not a common occurrence,
but most people who live in Canton will suffer from
this two or three times in their lives. It is not life-threatening
nor will it cause any permanent damage to the eyes.
However, it is extremely debilitating over the couple
of days when it reaches is peak.
You will have been in physical contact with somebody
who has red and swollen eyes, and the infection can
be spread by touching common objects such as a handrail.
It is likely this person will be a member of your own
household, and in our case (September 2010) it was our
9-month old daughter who contracted it first - probably
after a routine hospital visit for another vaccination.
My personal guess is that the incubation period is 2-days
before any signs show outwardly. During this period
the disease can be spread, even though you are as yet
unaware you have been infected. This happened to my
wife's Mother. The first signs of infection are a reddening
of the eyes, quickly followed by a sensation of irritation
around the inner eyelids. I would liken it to feeling
as if you have several sty's in your eye at the same
As soon as you notice anything similar to above we suggest
you go immediately to see your local Doctor, there will
be one at any public or private hospital. Foreigners
should normally use a private facility and pay a little
extra for immediate service.
Within hours of noticing the red eyeball discolouration
and uncomfortable feeling, this quickly develops to
feeling as if both your eyes are full of sharp sand.
This is accompanied by swelling and quite intense itching,
and is made worse the more you move your eyes. Rubbing
your eyes will quickly make this a lot worse.
We all reacted slightly differently to this infection:
A. Our young daughter appeared
least affected with her eyes clearing on day four. She
had little discomfort and didn't cry, whilst sleeping
B. My wife, who had suffered this once
before when she was 8-years old, suffered severe headaches,
probably due to the eyeballs or surrounding tissue becoming
inflamed and pressurizing the eyeballs. She could not
sleep at all on the first night. Whilst still looking
a sorry sight, she stated the main infection lasted
a little over 2-days, although it takes 5-days to completely
I contracted it more slowly than the others,
to the point where my wife had to insist I accompany
them to hospital for treatment. I am extremely glad
I did! My right eye became infected about 5-hours before
my left for some reason. I slept fine and did not really
notice a headache - but I did suffer from a short fever,
being hot one minute and cold the next. I also experienced
the mild muscle tightness associated with a fever, which
makes you enjoy stretching them. However, my eyes became
so infected that I could not open them properly for
around 12 hours and my eyeballs were very tender and
itchy. In my case this was also accompanied by a mild
head cold, but nothing serious.
The hospital Doctor was great and said there was
a local epidemic going round these days. She prescribed
injections - mine given at the top of my bum,
whilst my wife had hers administered via a I-V
drip. Rhiannon had a small jab in her arm. All
of us then had our eyes washed out by a lovely
nurse, and we departed with packages of pills
and eye drops. Chinese tend to have a lot of pills,
and each sachet contains the pills to be taken
each time - in our case 3 times per day. Our daughter
was given a more traditional mix, with little
folded paper packets containing crushed medicines
that are mixed with warm water to make a tonic.
The charge for treatment and medicines was less
than Y100 each.
Vine Leaf Soup
The standard local cure for eye infections is
to boil a pot of leaves that look like some form
of short vine. They are left in a vat of water
to simmer for over an hour, and the resulting
amber fluid is drunk when cold. It tastes very
nice actually, and I have eaten this as a vegetable
and combined soup on previous occasions, where
is is only cooked for 10-minutes. The infusion
is taken every few hours, and you are supposed
to drink a large mug of it every time. If you
try this, then know it is also OK to eat the leaves
which are quite tasty; but this is not required.
This is more a Traditional Chinese Medicine, and
looks like something you would expect to find
in a brackish puddle along a forest trail after
heavy rain. The dry ingredients are bought from
Chinese Medicinal stalls, and mixed together with
a lot of water, and then simmered for a couple
The resultant liquid is drained-off and consumed
in large quantities quite frequently = a pint
every 2-hours or so. Despite its looks, it is
actually very pleasant and reminds me of the taste
of real licorice - that's the twigs of the actual
bush we used to buy when I was a kid. However,
it is sweeter than simple licorice and goes down
With so many things flooding my system it is hard
to detect what was most effective, but I noticed
immediate improvement a few hours after taking
this last concoction. It also produced some flatulence,
which is great fun for boys and babies!
My wife also got hold of some special eye drops
from the same supplier, and these worked for me.
The small plain container had to be kept in the
fridge, but the clear liquid inside really soothed
my sore eyes immediately.
I am pretty certain the incubation period is about
2-days before any symptoms appear. Once they do
it quickly develops over the next 12 hours. The
next 24 hours can be extremely discomfortable,
and you may want to refrain from doing anything
that involves eye movement.
Do not rub your eyes, as this only makes things
worse. I took to rinsing my eyes with water, simply
because our Optrex had disappeared during one
of our many moves. I would then re-apply the Traditional
Medicine eye drops and enjoy a couple of hours
After 48 hours the main symptoms should have eased
greatly, but the condition will persist for up
to 5 days in total, not counting the incubation
period. During this time you should continue with
medicines and eye drops.
If any readers are smokers, then please be aware
the smoke from cigarettes greatly inflames the
eye irritation - to the point where you may want
to only smoke outdoors and in a windy place.
Cleanliness will not prevent this disease, but good
practice will reduce the symptoms. Wash hands regularly,
preferably with a proprietary brand anti-bacterial soap.
To read about how this affected Jonno and his family,
please see his missive:
to See the Doctor'
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