Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

What is it?

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an infection of the inner eyelids and surrounding tissues of the eye. Technically, the term "conjunctivitis" simply means an inflammation of these tissues. Therefore, anything resulting in an irritation and swelling of these tissues, such as an allergy or spilling a chemical into the eye, is considered conjunctivitis. However, most of the time the term "pink eye" is reserved for infections of the eye. Viruses or bacteria may cause pink eye. The prevalence of viral pink eye will depend, in part, upon the season. During the cold and flu season, viruses cause most cases of pink eye. And just like other viral infections, they do not respond to antibiotics. Those caused by bacteria do respond to topical antibiotics; the duration of the infection is decreased by a couple of days.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms include swelling of the eyelids, sometimes associated with a yellowish-green discharge that may cause the eyelids to stick together. The infected tissues may include the white of the eye, so when they become inflamed, the eye appears red or bloodshot. Often, one eye becomes red followed by the other eye a few days later.

What can/should be done at home

  • Soaks with warm water and a washcloth can help relieve burning and itching
  • The child should have his or her own washcloth, towels, and bed linens because the infection is transmitted through eye secretions
  • Family members should wash their hands often and carefully to help prevent transmission
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