First Aid

Pinkeye (or conjunctivitis) is inflammation of the white part of the eye and the inner eyelids. It can be caused by allergies, irritating substances, or infection from a virus or bacteria .

Some kinds of pinkeye go away on their own, but others need treatment with antibiotics. When pinkeye is caused by an infection, it can be spread easily from person to person.

Signs and Symptoms

  • discomfort or feeling like something is in the eye
  • redness of the eye and inner eyelid
  • watery or pus-like liquid seeping from the eye
  • lashes matted or stuck together upon waking up
  • itchiness and tearing (common with allergic pinkeye)

What to Do

  • Call your doctor, particularly for a newborn. If it looks like a bacterial infection, treatment may include antibiotic drops or ointment.
  • Carefully clean the eye area with warm water and gauze or cotton balls.
  • Gently put cool compresses on the eye.
  • If your doctor suggests it, give acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve discomfort (check label instructions for the correct amount). Don't give ibuprofen to an infant younger than 6 months old.

Get Medical Care if Your Child:

  • shows no improvement in 2 or 3 days if treated, or a week if untreated
  • has eye redness that gets worse
  • has increasing swelling of the eyelids
  • complains of severe pain
  • has any change in vision
  • also has ear pain (pinkeye and ear infections can happen at the same time)

Think Prevention!

Wash hands well and often, especially after touching eyes. Don't share eye ointment, washcloths, towels, and pillowcases. Talk to your doctor if itchy, watery, or red eyes are a frequent problem — allergies might be the cause.

If some household things seem to irritate the eyes, try:

  • dusting and vacuuming often
  • closing windows and doors when pollen is heavy
  • keeping scented or irritating chemicals (like household cleaners) to a minimum
  • avoiding secondhand smoke
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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