Getting ready for school this fall means shopping for new sneakers, loading a backpack with pencils, and setting the alarm clock for an earlier hour. But along with classroom supplies and extra shut-eye, an infection or two might pop up in your child. While a cough or head lice are often the usual suspects, “children are more susceptible to getting pinkeye from bacteria or viruses because they’re in close contact with many others in school or day care and don’t practice good hygiene,” says Jane Edmond, MD, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
“Pink eye is incredibly common, affecting about 3 million people every year, according to the National Eye Institute,” says Jaime Friedman, MD, a mom of two and a pediatrician at Children’s Primary Care Medical Group in San Diego.
If your child does end up with pink eye, relief from the redness, watering, swelling, and burning sensation can come from eye drops such as PinkEye Relief.®
Here’s everything you need to know about identifying—and possibly preventing—a case of pink eye.
What it is: Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation underneath the eyelids and the tissue that coats the white of the eye. “The conjunctivae are the membrane that covers the eye’s white part—and when it becomes inflamed, irritated, or infected, it turns pink or red,” explains Preeti Parikh, MD, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai Center in New York York City. Your child’s eyes may appear red, swollen, and watery, and he may complain of an itchy feeling. He’ll also notice a crusty residue on his lids and lashes, especially when he wakes up in the morning.
What causes it: Pink eye can be triggered by bacteria or a virus—or it might develop as the result of an allergy. “The allergens that affect little kids most often are grass, pollen, pet dander, and dust mites,” says Friedman. This infection can occur rather easily, especially among young kids, since it’s spread via hands and contaminated surfaces. “The most common ways to contract the bacterial or viral form of pink eye include direct contact with an infected person’s secretions, usually through hand-to-eye contact, or by bacteria living in the person’s own nose,” notes Edmond.
But try not to worry too much about this condition. “Typical viral or bacterial conjunctivitis will not affect vision,” reports Friedman. However, if your child complains about the way he sees or if he has eye pain or other symptoms that seem out of the ordinary, see your doctor, she adds.
How pink eye is treated: There aren’t any medications for viral conjunctivitis that will make it resolve more quickly, points out Edmond. “It takes about seven to ten days to get better on its own and doesn’t respond to antibiotic drops,” she says. “Your child’s doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops if the conjunctivitis is bacterial in nature,” notes Friedman. “However, if you have a very young child, drops can be hard to get into the eye, so an ointment would be a better choice,” points out Parikh. In the meantime, you can wipe the area with a clean cloth and offer a cold or warm compress a few times a day. “Bacterial conjunctivitis will respond to antibiotic drops in one to two days, while the allergic type can be treated by avoiding the irritant, if possible, as well as using artificial tears to flush the area and anti-allergy eye drops,” says Edmond. Your child might also find relief with sterile eye drops, such as the 2017 winner of the Women’s Choice Award, PinkEye Relief®. These drops have 100% all natural active ingredients and come in an easy to use, squeezable bottle. They are also the only homeopathic pink eye drop on the market to be free of Belladonna and Silver Sulfate.
Ways to prevent it: Keeping hands clean—and away from the face—can help to stave off a case of pink eye. “Avoid sharing blankets, pillowcases, and towels too,” recommends Friedman. Remind your kids to wash their hands before and after touching their mouth, nose, and eyes, suggests Parikh. And if there’s a case of conjunctivitis going around the house, sanitize any toys that may be covered with secretions from the mouth and nose, she adds.