1. Bacteria – when the eyes are red with yellow or green drainage oozing or crusting in the eye throughout the day and night, then bacteria are usually the culprit. The eyelids may also be swollen. Affects one or both eyes.
2. Virus – when the eyes are very red, but there is no drainage, or only a small amount of drainage or crusting upon waking up, then it is probably viral conjunctivitis. Usually affects both eyes
3. Allergy – allergic conjunctivitis is usually seasonal, mostly in the spring. The eyes are usually red with no drainage, and unusually itchy. Usually affects both eyes.
4. Foreign body – a piece of sand or dirt stuck under the eyelid can cause redness, tearing, pain and drainage. Usually affects one eye.
5. Plugged tear duct– this is a problem for newborns up to one year of age. It is eye drainage without any eye redness. Affects one or both eyes. Click on it for more info.
6. Scratched eye– can cause redness, tearing, and is very painful. Affects only one eye. Click on it for more info.
- Warm compress – hold a warm, wet washcloth against the eye and gently wipe away any drainage.
- Saline eye drops – or artificial tears can sooth the eye whatever the cause. These can also be used to flush out any sand or dirt stuck in the eye.
IS MY CHILD CONTAGIOUS?
- Antibiotic ointment or drops – this is the treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis only.
- Allergy eye drops – there are several prescription and over-the-counter antihistamine drops that can help alleviate eye allergies.
- Visine – these over-the-counter drops can help with redness and irritation of sore eyes, except with bacterial conjunctivitis.
Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are the only two causes that are contagious. They are spread by contact with the eye drainage or tears.
WHEN TO WORRY (AND NOT TO WORRY)
- Bacterial is no longer contagious after 36 to 48 hours of antibiotic drops.
- Viral has no treatment, except to relieve the symptoms. It can be contagious as long as the eyes are red.
- Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious.
Pink eye is generally not serious and should improve with treatment or time. You should contact you doctor if:
- bacterial pink eye does not improve after 5 days of treatment
- allergic pink eye does not improve after 5 days of treatment or if it worsens at any time during treatment (this may mean there is a bacteria involved).
- viral pink eye begins to have more drainage
- your child complains of any problems with their vision besides simple blurring from the discharge.