Causes and Treatment of Pink Eye
Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is a sometimes contagious infection with symptoms of both bloodshot and draining eyes. This infection is contagious during certain stages of the illness. Pink eye is one surefire way to get your day-care provider to make a come-get-our-baby-call, but your child may attend daycare again once treatment is started.
Top 6 Causes of Pink Eye
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. This form of pink eye is also referred to as bacterial conjunctivitis.
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.
Treatment of Pink Eye
Warm Compress: Hold a warm, wet washcloth against the eye and gently wipe away any drainage.
Saline Eye Drops (or Artificial Tears): Artificial tears or saline drops can soothe the eye, whatever the cause. These can also be used to flush out any sand or dirt stuck in the eye.
Medication for Pink Eye
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.
Is my child’s pink eye contagious?
Not all pink eye is contagious. Pink eye is only contagious when it is caused by bacterial conjunctivitis or viral conjunctivitis. These two causes of pink eye are spread by contact with the eye drainage or tears.
- Bacterial conjunctivitis is no longer contagious after 36 to 48 hours of antibiotic drops.
- Viral conjunctivitis has no treatment, except to relieve the symptoms of pink eye. It can be contagious as long as the eyes are red.
- Allergic conjunctivitis is another cause of pink eye, however, this cause is not contagious.
When to Worry About Pink Eye and When to Not Worry
Pink eye is generally not serious and should improve with treatment or time. You should contact your doctor if:
- Bacterial conjunctivitis pink eye does not improve after 5 days of treatment
- Pink eye from Allergic conjunctivitis pink eye does not improve after 5 days of treatment or if it worsens at any time during treatment (this may mean there are a bacteria involved).
- Pink eye from viral conjunctivitis begins to have more drainage
- Your child complains of any problems with their vision besides simple blurring from the discharge.
Dr. Sears, or Dr. Bill as his “little patients” call him, has been advising busy parents on how to raise healthier families for over 40 years. He received his medical training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the world’s largest children’s hospital, where he was associate ward chief of the newborn intensive care unit before serving as the chief of pediatrics at Toronto Western Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto. He has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. As a father of 8 children, he coached Little League sports for 20 years, and together with his wife Martha has written more than 40 best-selling books and countless articles on nutrition, parenting, and healthy aging. He serves as a health consultant for magazines, TV, radio and other media, and his AskDrSears.com website is one of the most popular health and parenting sites. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 100 television programs, including 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, Today, The View, and Dr. Phil, and was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.