Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis) FAQ
Author: Nicole Marty, MD
Pink eye is extremely common, and is something that you usually don't need to go to urgent care for. Rather, you can wait until the next morning and be seen in the office. Many cases of pink eye are viral and don't require antibiotics at all. There are three different types of pink eye. Here's how to tell them apart:
Viral (most common) - Symptoms can include watery eyes and is often times seen along with a cold, flu, or sore throat. Often eyelids are crusted upon waking from sleeping. However, after the crusts are clean out, the drainage does not accumulate.
Allergic - Symptoms include itchy eyes, swollen eyelids, and a runny or itchy nose. This type of pink eye is common in people with allergies to pollen or animal dander (although there are many causes).
Bacterial - Symptoms include a red eye or eyes and a thick, often yellow-green discharge that lasts all day (usually not with a cold or flu). Eyes will be crusted shut upon waking; however, unlike viral, when you clean out the crusts the yellow-green discharge reappears within minutes.
I think my child has viral pink eye, what should I do?
Antibiotic drops will NOT work for viral pink eye, and may actually make the redness and discharge worse! You can put a cool compress on the eyes to help soothe the eye. Cooled artificial tears (which can be found over the counter) may also help, but don't overuse them as they can cause more irritation if overused.
I think my child has bacterial pink eye, what should I do?
Even if your child has bacterial pink eye, you may NOT need antibiotics. Mild bacterial pink eye almost always goes away within 10 days without treatment (antibacterial drops). It is usually not necessary to go to urgent care after hours or on the weekends for simple pink eye. However, we do recommend that you be seen in the office on the next business day so drops can be started if needed, which may help you child get better faster (may need drops in order to be able to return to daycare). Learn more about when antibiotic are and are not needed for pink eye.
When does my child need to be seen urgently?
If you child is experiencing any of the following, please bring them to care urgently:
- Severe eye pain, child cannot keep eye open, or sensitivity to light
- A change in vision (blurry vision or can't see as well)
- History of recent injury to the eye
- Significant swelling and redness around the eye (it is normal to have minor redness and swelling, and redness of the eyeball)
- You child has a history of eye surgery
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to give our office a call.
The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
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