Conjunctivitis means inflammation of the conjunctiva – the transparent membrane that covers the white of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids. Also called pinkeye, it causes redness, irritation, a gritty feeling in the eye, and a discharge. Conjunctivitis can be caused by infection with a virus or bacteria, or by an allergy.
Allergic and Viral Conjunctivitis Symptoms:
- Redness of the sclera (white part of the eye)
- Redness of the inner eyelids
- A watery discharge
- No yellow discharge or matting of eyelids
- Not caused by crying
Children with allergic or viral conjunctivitis can attend daycare or school. Treating the allergies with eye drops or irrigating the eyes with saline is sometimes helpful. It is important to encourage the children not to touch or rub their eyes so that they do not introduce bacteria into the eye and cause an infection.
Bacterial Conjunctivitis Symptoms:
- Yellow discharge in the eye
- Eyelids stuck together with discharge, especially after sleeping
- Dried eye discharge on the upper cheek
- The sclera may or may not have some redness or pinkness
- Eyelids are usually puffy due to irritation for the infection
Bacterial conjunctivitis should be treated with an antibiotic eye medicine. After using eye drops for 24 hours and if the pus is minimal, children can return to day care or school. Before putting any medicines in the eye, it is important to remove all the discharge/crusts from the eye with warm water and gauze or cotton. Unless this is done, the medicine will not have a chance to work. Children with contact lenses need to switch to glasses temporarily to prevent damage to the cornea.
(Instructions for Pediatric Patients, 2nd Ed., 1999 by WB Saunders Company)