Pinkeye is the popular term for conjunctivitis, an incredibly common and typically non-threatening ailment characterized by puffy, reddish-pink, oozing eyes – sometimes even stuck shut in the morning – and swollen and/or misshapen eyelids.
“When I went to get Lucy out of her crib, her eyes were all crusty; I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t open them. I carefully wiped them with a cotton ball and salt water and called the doctor, who told me that it was conjunctivitis (pinkeye). She assured me it wasn’t anything to be overly concerned about, but it was highly contagious and Lucy would need an antibiotic. A week later it had gone away. A few years after that, my son had a similar thing, but his didn’t need an antibiotic and went away on its own. Now I know not to worry.” – Sarah, 42, mom of two
- Quick Facts:
- Pinkeye is very common but usually clears up within 10 days without treatment.
- Pinkeye is often very contagious.
- Pinkeye does not usually lead to serious eye problems.
- Bacterial pinkeye (the gunky kind) should be treated with antibiotics.
Types of Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis)
- There are three types of pinkeye (conjunctivitis): viral, bacterial, and allergic.
- Viral Pinkeye
Viral pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is marked by a clear watery discharge from the eye and is typically accompanied by other viral symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, or a sore throat. Viral pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is non-threatening but very contagious. It won’t respond to antibiotics but typically clears up in a week or two.
- Bacterial Pinkeye
Bacterial pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is the more gunky kind, marked by crusty eyes with a yellowish-green discharge. Bacterial pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is typically treated with antibiotics, so call your doctor. Bacterial pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is very contagious.
- Allergic Pinkeye
Allergic pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is marked by irritation of the eye but is unlikely to have any discharge. It is caused by the presence of an allergen or irritant and typically clears up on its own within a day or two if the allergen or irritant is removed. Allergic pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is non-contagious.
- Try to keep your baby from touching her eyes.
- Place a warm washcloth on the eye for five to ten minutes. Repeat throughout the day.
- Preservative-free artificial tears may be applied. Never use steroid eye drops without a doctor’s prescription.
- Make sure your baby has her own towel, washcloth and pillowcase.
- Lots of hand-washing!
- No one should use any makeup or contact lenses until the infection has cleared up.
Call Your Doctor If:
- Your baby has other symptoms such as a fever, a cold or an ear ache.
- Her eye gets stuck shut in the morning from crusted discharge.
- The area around her eye gets red.
- There has been any trauma to the eye.
- Pinkeye does not usually lead to more serious eye problems.
- The greatest risk is that your child may rub too hard and scratch their eye, but this is rare.
- Encourage hand-washing and keep your child’s eyes clean.
- Keep away from other kids who have it!