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Redness or pinkness of the white of the eye and inner eyelids
May have increased tearing (watery eye)
Eyelid may be puffy or mildly swollen
No pus or other discharge
Pinkeye: When the white of the eye (sclera) becomes pink or red, it’s called pinkeye. Conjunctivitis is another name for pinkeye. The conjunctiva is the membrane that covers the white of the eye. It becomes pink when it is infected or irritated. Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) has many causes.
Viral conjunctivitis (part of a cold) is the main cause of pink eyes without pus.
Bacterial conjunctivitis: pink eye plus the eyelids are stuck together with pus. Usually, this is a secondary infection of a viral conjunctivitis.
Allergic conjunctivitis from pollens. Most children with eye allergies also have nasal allergies (hay fever) with sneezing and clear nasal discharge.
Irritant conjunctivitis from sunscreen, soap, chlorinated pool water, smoke, or smog, etc.
Irritants can also be transferred by touching the eye with dirty fingers (e.g., food or plant resins)
Foreign body (FB): If only one side has pinkeye, a FB in the eye must be considered.
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Pink eye with a watery discharge is harmless and mildly contagious. Children with colds in the eye usually do not need to miss any child care or school.
Feels like something got in eye, see EYE - FOREIGN BODY
Yellow or green pus in eye, see EYE - PUS OR DRAINAGE
Main symptom is itchy eyes, see EYE - ALLERGY
Your child looks or acts very sick
Eyelid is very red or very swollen
Constant tearing or blinking
Eye pain that's more than mild
Cloudy spot or haziness of the cornea (clear part of the eye)
Turns away from any light
Age under 12 weeks with fever above 100.4° F (38.0° C) rectally (Caution: Do NOT give your baby any fever medicine before being seen.)
You think your child needs to be seen urgently
You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
Only 1 eye is red and present over 24 hours
Fever present over 3 days (72 hours)
Fever returns after gone for over 24 hours
You have other questions or concerns
Age under 1 month old
Redness lasts over 7 days
Red eye is part of a cold and you don't think your child needs to be seen
Red eye caused by mild irritant (e.g., soap, sunscreen, food, smoke, smog, chlorine, perfume) and you don't think your child needs to be seen
Some viruses cause watery eyes (viral conjunctivitis).
It may be the first symptom of a cold.
It isn't serious and you can treat that at home.
Colds can also cause a small amount of mucus to collect in the inner corner of the eye.
Eye Cleansing: Cleanse eyelids with warm water and a clean cotton ball at least every 2 hours while your child is awake and at home. This usually will keep a bacterial infection from occurring.
Artificial tears often make red eyes feel better. (no prescription needed)
Use 1 drop per eye 3 times a day. Use them after cleansing the eyelids.
Antibiotic and vasoconstrictor eyedrops do not help viral eye infections.
Contacts: Children with contact lenses need to switch to glasses temporarily (reason: to prevent damage to the cornea).
Pink eye with a watery discharge is harmless and mildly contagious.
Children with colds in the eye do not need to miss any child care or school.
Pinkeye is not a public health risk and keeping these children home is over-reacting. If asked, tell the school your child is on eyedrops (artificial tears).
Expected Course: Pink eye with a cold usually lasts about 7 days.
Call Your Doctor If:
Yellow or green discharge develops
Redness lasts for more than 1 week
Your child becomes worse
Reassurance: Most eye irritants cause transient redness of the eyes. You can treat that at home.
Face Cleansing: Wash the face with mild soap and water. Wash off eyelids with water. This will remove any irritants.
Eye Irrigation: Irrigate the eye with warm water for 5 minutes.
Red eyes from irritants usually feel much better after the irritant has been washed out.
If they remain uncomfortable and bloodshot, instill artificial tears or a long-acting vasoconstrictor eye drops (no prescription needed).
You can ask your pharmacist to recommend a brand.
Use 1 drop every 8 to 12 hours as necessary.
Expected Course: After removal of the irritant, the eyes usually return to normal color in 1 to 2 hours.
Prevention: Try to avoid future exposure to the irritant.
Develops yellow or green pus in the eye
Your child becomes worse