Conjunctivitis (Pink eye)

Conjunctivitis (infection of the eye) can be viral or bacterial. It may be difficult to differentiate the cause. No matter the cause, conjunctivitis usually starts suddenly and is highly contagious.

Viral conjunctivitis causes the whites of the eyes to become pink/red and sometimes the eyes feel itchy or painful, watery discharge. Typically starts in one eye and quickly spreads to other eye. Conjunctivitis caused by adenovirus is highly contagious and often associated with fever, sore throat and other respiratory tract symptoms No antibiotics are needed for viral conjunctivitis. Symptoms can often be relieved with cool compresses or artificial tears solution. Prevention is by hand hygiene. Viral conjunctivitis can last upto 14 days, but usually resolves in 5-7 days without treatment. Child may return back to day care or school, when redness and discharge is resolved


Bacterial conjunctivitis is also known as pink eye, as in the picture. With bacterial conjunctivitis, the eyes become pink/red, crusted, and the discharge is thick and colored. Sometimes swelling is seen. Antibiotics will be needed to clear the infection.

If you believe your child may have bacterial conjunctivitis or you are not sure, please notify your pediatrician.

Picture licensed under CC BY-SA-NC

Article by Natalia Cotton, PA