What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, often called “pink eye,” occurs when one or both eyes become pink or red. The eye or eyes may tear, have discharge and burn or itch. Sometimes there is crusting of the eyelashes.

What causes conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is most commonly caused by viruses, bacteria or allergies. It can also be caused by other infectious agents and chemicals.

What is the treatment for conjunctivitis?

Treatment should be tailored to the cause.

Bacterial conjunctivitis may be treated with antibiotic eye drops. Mild bacterial cases may not require treatment.

Viral conjunctivitis does not respond to antibiotic treatment. It is most commonly treated with supportive therapy including cold compresses and tears, which are prescribed as comfort measures.

Allergic conjunctivitis is treated with allergy eye drops.

Is conjunctivitis contagious?

Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are contagious. Handwashing is essential to avoid spreading infection. It is also helpful to discourage touching the eyes and to wash towels and bed linens after each use. It is important to avoid sharing towels and bedding when the infection is present.

When can my child go back to school?

For viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, a child may typically go back to school when the redness and discharge have resolved. There are no school restrictions for allergic conjunctivitis.

Call your healthcare provider if:

Symptoms do not improve or if your child develops decreased vision, increased swelling, light sensitivity, double vision or fever.

Special information for contact lens wearers:

Contact lenses should be removed and a call to your eye care provider should be considered.