Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

There are many causes for a red eye. Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is often a viral or bacterial infection of the eye. Pink eye may follow a cold or other respiratory illness.

Symptoms of pink eye include eyes that are:

  • red or pink in the white of the eye
  • itchy or irritated
  • watery
  • crusting or discharge (eyelid may be stuck shut)

How to treat pink eye

If your child has viral pink eye, antibiotics won't help. The symptoms should clear up in seven days.

If your child has bacterial pink eye, antibiotic eye drops will clear up the symptoms in a few days. Be sure to give your child the entire course of antibiotic.

How to keep from getting pink eye

Pink eye spreads easily. Make sure your child washes their hands often to prevent spreading the germs. Tell your child not to rub their eyes.

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider for an appointment if your child has:

  • swelling around the eye
  • severe pain
  • increased redness
  • vision changes
  • extreme sensitivity to light

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022