Pink Eye Care Guide

Linkedin icon for doctor pediatric
About us
Written by
Blueberry Editorial Team
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Lyndsey Garbi
Dr. Lyndsey Garbi, MD is the Chief Medical Officer of Blueberry Pediatrics and mom to three children. Dr. Garbi is board-certified in Pediatrics and Neonatology.
Blueberry - Rated best for online pediatrics!
Chat With A Pediatrician 🧑🏻
Get Started

Sorry to hear your child has pink eye. It almost seems like a rite of passage, doesn’t it? I don’t know anyone who survived childhood without pink eye. 

Let’s cover some top questions when it comes to pink eye.

What is pink eye?

Pink eye is the inflammation of the tissue that lines your eyes. Your eyelids usually become puffy and red, and the white of your eye becomes pink. You may also notice draining or crusting (the dreaded “sealed shut” feeling after waking up with newly infected eyes; we’ve all been there). Pink eye is the most common eye infection among both kids and adults. The medical name is conjunctivitis and it can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or allergies, to name the most common causes. 

Is pink eye contagious?

Not always! If the cause is from a bacteria or virus - yes, it is contagious. If it’s caused by allergies or other problems (irritating substances, foreign objects, blocked tear ducts), it is not contagious.

Does my child have to stay home from school/daycare if they have pink eye?

If the doctor feels your child’s pink eye is caused by a bacteria, he or she will prescribe antibiotics to clear it up. In that case, your child can return to school or daycare 24 hours after starting the antibiotics. If the doctor feels your child’s pink eye is caused by a virus, your child needs to stay home until the virus starts to clear up. Generally, you can tell by other improving symptoms.

How can you tell if pink eye is bacterial or viral?

Symptoms of bacterial and viral pink eye are very similar. But your doctor can use other clues to help decipher their treatment plan.

  • The color of the whites of your child’s eye(s): A virus causes the whites of your eyes to be a light pink color, while bacteria usually causes a darker pink or red color.
  • If both eyes are infected: it’s more likely to be caused by a virus.
  • The amount of drainage: a lot of eye drainage and crusting points more to a bacteria.
  • The doctor may check your child’s ears: if your child has an ear infection at the same time as pink eye, it’s more likely to be caused by a bacteria.
  • Age: In children, it’s a toss up between bacterial and viral causes. Adults tend to get pink eye caused by viruses.

How to treat pink eye

If the pediatrician thinks bacteria is the cause, he or she will prescribe antibiotics; they may prescribe a pill to be taken by mouth, ointment to be applied to the infected eye(s), or eye drops. Whatever is prescribed, follow the entire course, even if the eye is looking and feeling better.

If your child has viral pink eye, no medication is usually needed. Some rare situations may require antiviral medications - an example of this would be if your child had chickenpox and the doctor thinks the pink eye is secondary to the chickenpox infection. He or she would prescribe an antiviral to treat everything together.

If allergies are causing your child’s pink eye, over-the-counter eye drops with an antihistamine should help. If they don’t help, you can ask the doctor for a prescription for stronger eye drops.

Home remedies to relieve discomfort

Some tips to help your child find comfort at home while this resolves.

  • Wash your child’s eye (or eyes) well (but gently) with mild soap or baby shampoo, especially in the mornings if they wake up with crusty eyelids.
  • Place a wet, cold towel across their eyes. You can also try a warm towel - whatever feels better. Be sure it’s just over their eyes, not across their nose. And if your child is young, stay with them to be safe.some text
    • As soon as you remove the towel from their eyes, place it in the dirty laundry and wash your hands. 
  • If your child normally wears contacts, keep them in glasses until this resolves.
  • Artificial tears eye drops can help with itching, burning, and moisturizing. You can get these over-the-counter.some text
    • Only use the eye drops on the infected eye and throw it away as soon as your child’s symptoms resolve.

How long does pink eye last?

Symptoms should be resolved within 4-7 days. Bacterial infections clear up faster than viral infections.

When should I worry about pink eye? What if it gets worse?

Reach back out to us at Blueberry if your child experiences any of the following:

  • Severe pain in their eye(s)
  • Worsening symptoms (example: the drainage from the eyes is increasing)
  • Blurred vision or any vision loss
  • Severe sensitivity to light
  • Inability to move the eyes in all directions 

Also, reach out to us anytime you’re worried. That’s what we’re here for - to ease your worries and guide you through any questions you have. 

WIN A BLUEBERRY MEMBERSHIP!
Join our newsletter, and you'll be entered into a giveaway to win a free annual membership and a four-piece at-home medical kit.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Other articles we think you’d like

Pink Eye Care Guide

Blueberry Editorial Team
Thin Header White Wave
Table of Contents

    Sorry to hear your child has pink eye. It almost seems like a rite of passage, doesn’t it? I don’t know anyone who survived childhood without pink eye. 

    Let’s cover some top questions when it comes to pink eye.

    What is pink eye?

    Pink eye is the inflammation of the tissue that lines your eyes. Your eyelids usually become puffy and red, and the white of your eye becomes pink. You may also notice draining or crusting (the dreaded “sealed shut” feeling after waking up with newly infected eyes; we’ve all been there). Pink eye is the most common eye infection among both kids and adults. The medical name is conjunctivitis and it can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or allergies, to name the most common causes. 

    Is pink eye contagious?

    Not always! If the cause is from a bacteria or virus - yes, it is contagious. If it’s caused by allergies or other problems (irritating substances, foreign objects, blocked tear ducts), it is not contagious.

    Does my child have to stay home from school/daycare if they have pink eye?

    If the doctor feels your child’s pink eye is caused by a bacteria, he or she will prescribe antibiotics to clear it up. In that case, your child can return to school or daycare 24 hours after starting the antibiotics. If the doctor feels your child’s pink eye is caused by a virus, your child needs to stay home until the virus starts to clear up. Generally, you can tell by other improving symptoms.

    How can you tell if pink eye is bacterial or viral?

    Symptoms of bacterial and viral pink eye are very similar. But your doctor can use other clues to help decipher their treatment plan.

    • The color of the whites of your child’s eye(s): A virus causes the whites of your eyes to be a light pink color, while bacteria usually causes a darker pink or red color.
    • If both eyes are infected: it’s more likely to be caused by a virus.
    • The amount of drainage: a lot of eye drainage and crusting points more to a bacteria.
    • The doctor may check your child’s ears: if your child has an ear infection at the same time as pink eye, it’s more likely to be caused by a bacteria.
    • Age: In children, it’s a toss up between bacterial and viral causes. Adults tend to get pink eye caused by viruses.

    How to treat pink eye

    If the pediatrician thinks bacteria is the cause, he or she will prescribe antibiotics; they may prescribe a pill to be taken by mouth, ointment to be applied to the infected eye(s), or eye drops. Whatever is prescribed, follow the entire course, even if the eye is looking and feeling better.

    If your child has viral pink eye, no medication is usually needed. Some rare situations may require antiviral medications - an example of this would be if your child had chickenpox and the doctor thinks the pink eye is secondary to the chickenpox infection. He or she would prescribe an antiviral to treat everything together.

    If allergies are causing your child’s pink eye, over-the-counter eye drops with an antihistamine should help. If they don’t help, you can ask the doctor for a prescription for stronger eye drops.

    Home remedies to relieve discomfort

    Some tips to help your child find comfort at home while this resolves.

    • Wash your child’s eye (or eyes) well (but gently) with mild soap or baby shampoo, especially in the mornings if they wake up with crusty eyelids.
    • Place a wet, cold towel across their eyes. You can also try a warm towel - whatever feels better. Be sure it’s just over their eyes, not across their nose. And if your child is young, stay with them to be safe.some text
      • As soon as you remove the towel from their eyes, place it in the dirty laundry and wash your hands. 
    • If your child normally wears contacts, keep them in glasses until this resolves.
    • Artificial tears eye drops can help with itching, burning, and moisturizing. You can get these over-the-counter.some text
      • Only use the eye drops on the infected eye and throw it away as soon as your child’s symptoms resolve.

    How long does pink eye last?

    Symptoms should be resolved within 4-7 days. Bacterial infections clear up faster than viral infections.

    When should I worry about pink eye? What if it gets worse?

    Reach back out to us at Blueberry if your child experiences any of the following:

    • Severe pain in their eye(s)
    • Worsening symptoms (example: the drainage from the eyes is increasing)
    • Blurred vision or any vision loss
    • Severe sensitivity to light
    • Inability to move the eyes in all directions 

    Also, reach out to us anytime you’re worried. That’s what we’re here for - to ease your worries and guide you through any questions you have.