Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Commonly called pink eye, conjunctivitis is an infection of the eye’s outermost layer.
It can occur in anyone but it’s most common among children. In fact, children miss some 3 million days of school each year due to conjunctivitis.


What Causes Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the thin, outer membrane of your eye. The “conjunctiva” covers the white part of the eye and the eyelid. It can become inflamed for three primary reasons.
• Bacterial conjunctivitis. Inflammation caused by bacteria that’s highly contagious. This type of conjunctivitis usually causes yellowish pus to discharge from the inner corner of the eye(s).
• Viral conjunctivitis. Can be caused by the same virus as the common cold. This type of conjunctivitis causes a thin, watery mucous to discharge from the eye(s). It is also very contagious.
• Allergic conjunctivitis. This type of conjunctivitis is not contagious. Rather, it is caused by an allergic reaction to something in the environment like dust, pollen or even an irritant like swimming pool chemicals. Itching is usually the worst symptom.

Other Symptoms of Conjunctivitis

Symptoms can occur in one or both eyes. They usually include:
• Redness, bloodshot eye(s),
• Runny eye(s),
• Discharge that can be clear, yellow or green,
• Eye(s) that itch and burn,
• Light sensitivity,
• Eye(s) that feels gritty,
• Crusty eyelids or lashes.

Should My Baby See a Doctor?

Probably. Since it’s difficult to know which type of conjunctivitis your child has, it’s important to see a doctor. Viral conjunctivitis will usually heal on its own; bacterial conjunctivitis could cause more serious problems if not treated with antibiotics. Your pediatrician or optometrist can also provide a prescription for eye drops that will lessen discomfort and itching while the conjunctiva heals.

A note about newborns

It’s especially important for newborns with conjunctivitis to receive medical treatment. In newborns, the condition can be caused by irritation, an infection or a blocked tear duct. If neonatal conjunctivitis is caused by an infection, the condition can become quite serious. If your baby develops eye redness, discharge or swelling in the hours and days following birth, contact your pediatrician.

Can I Treat Conjunctivitis at Home?

You can help your child’s eyes feel better at home by taking the following steps:
• Use warm compresses on eyes that have viral or bacterial conjunctivitis.
A cool compress usually feels better on allergic conjunctivitis. (If only one eye is affected, don’t use the same compress on the other eye to avoid spreading the infection.)
• When wiping eyes with a washcloth or tissue, wipe from the inside (next to the nose) out to avoid rubbing drainage back into the eye.
• Over-the-counter saline drops can help lubricate the eye and reduce the feeling of grittiness.

Can I Prevent Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is extremely contagious, but you can take steps to prevent with these steps:
• Make sure your child practices good hand hygiene at school and daycare.
• Tell your child to avoid touching his or her eyes.
• Promptly throw away tissues used to wipe infected eyes. Launder washcloths right away. Don’t let other children in the home touch these items and be sure to wash your hands after disposing of them.
• Keep your child home from school or daycare until the infection has passed.