What is Acute Conjunctivitis?
More commonly known as ‘pink eye,’ conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the thin tissue that covers the whites of the eyes and the inside of the eyelid. This inflammation can be caused by irritants, allergies, viruses, bacteria or, in rare cases, autoimmune diseases.
Symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
- Redness of the whites of the eyes and the inside of the eyelids
- Eye pain
- Sensitivity to light
- Increased tearing
- A ‘gritty’ feeling inside the eye, like there’s a piece of sand stuck there
- Green or yellow discharge
Pink Eye Treatment
When conjunctivitis is caused by an infection, it can be caused by a virus or bacteria. Viral conjunctivitis cannot be treated with an antibiotic whereas bacterial infections can.
Signs that make a bacterial conjunctivitis more likely include:
- Green or yellow discharge that continues throughout the day
- Affected eye crusted shut in the morning
- Pain in the affected eye
- No other viral symptoms like runny nose or cough
When a bacterial infection is suspected, a topical antibiotic made for the eye is used. This can come as either a drop or an ointment and is applied 3 times per day for 5 days. Even if only one eye is red, you should apply the medication to both eyes.
To prevent spread, make sure your child washes their hands regularly.
Contact lens wearers should stop wearing lenses while being treated.
When Can my Child Return to School?
- Technically your child can return to school even without treatment. Even bacterial conjunctivitis with usually get better on its own and should be thought of like the common cold. Kids go to school with a cold and pinkeye is no different.
- Some schools still require that your child to be on antibiotics for 24 hours before they return to school
Check in With K If…
- You have general questions about your child’s condition
- You want general followup for your child
- You have questions about supportive care
- Your child’s symptoms don’t go away after treatment but are not alarming
See a Doctor in Person If…
- Worsening eye pain especially if your child is a contact lens wearer
- Change or worsening vision
- Pain with eye movement
- Eye swelling
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.