Family health

Ask Dr. Dina: How do I treat pink eye?

Is your kid always getting pink eye? Dr. Dina Kulik covers the causes, treatment and prevention of spreading this contagious eye infection.

Child with pink eye rubbing his eyes, learning ways to treat pink eye

Photo: iStockphoto

Any tricks on how we can treat pink eye? We get it all the time.

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the membrane (conjunctiva) that covers the white part (sclera) of the eye. If your kid has it, his eyes may be lined with pus, and the skin around them can become red and swollen. Pink eye is most often caused by a virus, though a bacterial infection, or allergic or chemical irritation can also be the culprit.

Viral pink eye usually affects both eyes, and kids will have additional symptoms, such as a runny nose, congestion or cough. Bacterial pink eye typically affects only one eye and causes excessive discharge. In general, viral pink eye lasts one to two weeks and does not require treatment—it resolves on its own. In the meantime, warm compresses or saline eye drops can provide some relief. If the redness or swelling worsens, please see your physician to ensure your kid doesn’t have a bacterial infection. With the use of antibiotic eye drops or ointment, bacterial pink eye clears up within one to two days.

All types of pink eye are very contagious: Frequent hand-washing and minimizing the sharing of towels, makeup and pillows are crucial if you want to prevent its spread. Children with viral conjunctivitis should avoid other kids unless good hand hygiene is well enforced. With bacterial pink eye, kids can return to school or daycare 24 hours after they start antibiotics.

Read more:
The ultimate guide to pink eye
5 tips for giving your kid eye drops