Spotting Pink Eye Symptoms in Kids

There are three distinct types of pink eye. Pediatric ophthalmologist K. David Epley, M.D., explains how to tell the difference.
By Holly Pevzner
Mar 18, 2014



Mar 18, 2014

Bacterial Pink Eye
Spot it! Both eyes look red, and there's thick mucus first thing in the morning and throughout the day. (There are usually no other symptoms.) Kids under 5 are most susceptible. Wash hands frequently because the infection, often caused by staph or strep, is contagious.

Treat it! Head to the doctor. Your child will need prescription antibiotic eyedrops to clear the infection. After 24 hours of treatment, kids can head back to school.

Viral Pink Eye
Spot it! Redness starts in one eye, then moves to both; eyes appear watery. Lymph nodes in front of the ears or under the jawline may also be swollen. Like bacterial pink eye, the viral forms (typically caused by common-cold viruses) are also contagious. However, they tend to affect children over age 5.

Treat it! Soothe symptoms with OTC artificial tears and cool compresses. Antibiotics have no effect on these infections. Plan to keep your child home until his eyes are no longer red, which generally takes three to five days.

Allergic Pink Eye
Spot it! Eyes are watery and itchy thanks to allergens such as pollen and mold. Additional symptoms often include stuffy nose, itchy throat, post-nasal drip, and puffy eyelids. Allergies can affect kids of any age.

Treat it! Try an OTC antihistamine such as Zaditor (for ages 3 and up). No need to keep 'em home.


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