Most people have heard of the term “pink eye”. This is when your child’s eye becomes inflamed and red. Conjunctivitis “Pink eye” is a common problem we face as caregivers. What exactly is pink eye and one of the most frequent reasons that children are sent home from school and daycare?
So what is “pink eye” (conjunctivitis)?
This is when the membrane that covers the inside of the eyelid and the white part of the eye becomes inflamed. This inflammation can be caused by allergies, viruses, and bacteria.
Which type of pink eye is contagious?
Allergy conjunctivitis “pink eye” causes redness, itching, and sometimes watery “clear” discharge. This form of conjunctivitis is not contagious.
Viral conjunctivitis is contagious. It is caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold. Symptoms include redness, watery or mucus discharge, and a gritty sensation in the eye. One or both eyes may be affected, typically the second eye becomes infected within 24 to 28 hours after onset. The most common way to get pink eye is direct contact. This can occur when an infected person touches their own eye and then touches a door handle or shares an object that has touched the eye, like a towel or pillow or the infected person’s hand.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is also highly contagious and is also spread by direct contact. The most common symptoms is redness and thigh purulent discharge that continues throughout the day. The affected eye is often “matted” or “stuck shut” in the morning.
How do you treat pink eye?
Allergic Conjunctivitis will disappear on its own and does not need to be treated with antibiotic eye drops. You can treat Allergic Conjunctivitis with over-the-counter antihistamines and/or over-the-counter or prescription allergy eye drops. A warm compress over the eyes may help comfort the child and prevent rubbing.
Viral Conjunctivitis will disappear on its own and need not be treated with antibiotic eye drops. You can comfort your child with a warm compress over their eyes or over-the-counter lubricating eye drops. The symptoms may persist for 2-3 weeks.
Bacterial Conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment. An ointment is generally preferred for very young children for ease of application and should be applied inside the eyelid. When started early, treatment can help shorten the duration of the symptoms and prevent complications.
When can my child return to school or daycare?
The safest approach to avoid the spread of pink eye is to stay home until there is no longer any discharge from the eyes. However, this is not always practical. Most schools and daycare centers require 24 hours of antibiotic eye drops before returning to school. This is considered effective in preventing the spread of bacterial conjunctivitis but not helpful for children with viral conjunctivitis.
To prevent pink eye, have your child wash their hands frequently and avoid having them touch their eyes. Change their pillowcase frequently and wash hand towels and washcloths often. Do not allow your child to reuse tissues. Dispose of infected makeup.
If your teen wears contacts and has symptoms of conjunctivitis, they should be evaluated to confirm the diagnosis and be sure something more serious related to contact lens use is not present. If diagnosed with pink eye, they should wear their glasses until it resolves.
If your child has pink eye, make an appointment with their pediatrician or if they are unavailable, please feel free to bring your child to one of the Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care for evaluation.
Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care opened in 2006 in San Antonio, Texas. With multiple locations in San Antonio and Dallas, they are open seven days a week with extended evening hours and see walk-in patients or through an online check-in system. They accept walk-ins until 30 minutes before close. They accept most commercial insurance and Medicaid plans. More information about Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care can be found here.