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What Is Pink Eye and How Do You Prevent Your Child from Getting It?

Sep 1, 2022 | Vision Problems

With a new school year starting, you might be wondering how to keep your child healthy while they’re surrounded by different classroom germs. Because children sit close to each other and play together, they are susceptible to passing along illnesses like the common cold, flu viruses, and other infections, such as pink eye. Keep reading this article to learn how to protect your child from getting pink eye, what to do if they have it, and how you can avoid getting pink eye if your child has it.

What Is Pink Eye?

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is an eye infection that adults and children can experience.1 The infection causes the eye’s blood vessels to dilate and swell, which leads to the eye taking on a pink or red color.1,2 If your child comes home from school with pink eye, there are different factors that could have caused it.

Pink Eye Causes

While there are many things that cause pink eye, like chemicals, wearing contact lenses, loose eyelashes, fungi, and pollution, the most common causes of pink eye in adults and children are viruses, bacteria, and allergens.3

  • Pink eye caused by a virus. There are a large number of viruses, such as adenoviruses, that can cause pink eye.3 Because viral conjunctivitis is very contagious, if one of your child’s classmates have this type of pink eye, they might spread it to your child and other children in the school.3
  • Pink eye caused by bacteria. This type of pink eye is more common in children than it is in adults.3 Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by different bacteria that can be found in the nose, when people cough or sneeze, and other respiratory-related germs.3 Because of how the bacteria is carried from person to person, children are more likely to contract this contagious type of pink eye between December and April.3
  • Pink eye caused by allergens. If your child is prone to allergies, they might experience pink eye as a symptom.3 This type of pink eye isn’t contagious, and your child may contract it when outdoor pollen is high.3 If your child has asthma, eczema, or hay fever, they’re more likely to get allergic conjunctivitis.3 Common allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, mold, and pet dander can also cause this type of pink eye.3

Pink Eye Symptoms

Outside of swelling and the visual change of color in the white part of your child’s eyes, other pink eye symptoms are:

  • Your child producing more tears even if they’re not crying.
  • Your child having pus or mucus discharge in their eyes.
  • Your child waking up with crust on their eyelids or lashes.
  • Your child also experiencing symptoms of a cold or flu.
  • Your child also experiencing allergy symptoms.

Pink Eye Treatment Methods

Most cases of pink eye are mild and will go away without any additional treatment method.5 Over-the-counter products should be avoided until your child is seen by an eye doctor or healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment.5 You should take your child to their healthcare provider for treating their pink eye if:5

  • They feel pain in their eyes.
  • Their vision is impacted after the discharge and crust is wiped from their eyes.
  • The red color worsens.
  • Their symptoms get worse over time.
  • They’re a newborn with pink eye.

Is Pink Eye Contagious?

Not all types of pink eye are contagious. Viral and bacterial types are transmittable from person to person, but pink eye caused by allergies isn’t contagious.3

How to Avoid Pink Eye When Your Child Gets It?

The best way to help your child prevent giving you, their classmates, and teachers pink eye is to teach them proper hygiene habits. Using the following tips can help your child get over their pink eye without spreading it to others: 6

  • Show your child how to properly wash their hands with soap and warm water.
  • Remind them not to touch or rub their eyes because the pink eye can worsen.
  • Use a clean washcloth each time you help them remove the discharge and crust from their eyes.
  • Wash your child’s pillowcases and sheets using hot water and detergent.
  • If your child wears corrective lenses, clean those regularly and wash your hands before and after doing so.
  • Remind your child not to share their personal items with their friends at school.
  • If your child takes swimming lessons, don’t let them get in the water until after their pink eye is gone.

If you send your child to school while they have pink eye, notify their teacher so that extra precautions can be followed. The spread of pink eye can be limited if the proper steps are taken. Explore the Vision Salon Eye Care Associates blog for more tips on keeping your child healthy this school year.

  1. National Library of Medicine. Accessed 08/19/22.
  2. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 08/19/22.
  3. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye): Causes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 08/19/22.
  4. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye): Symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 08/20/22.
  5. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye): Treatment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 08/20/22.
  6. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye): Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 08/20/22.