Pink Eye: A Common Problem Among Children

Conjunctivitis in Children

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye,” is a common eye condition that affects children. It is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, transparent layer of tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. Symptoms of conjunctivitis in children can include redness, itching, burning, and discharge from the eyes. 

In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, treatments, and preventive measures for conjunctivitis in children.

What causes conjunctivitis in children?

Conjunctivitis in children is usually caused by a virus or bacteria. Viral conjunctivitis is often caused by the same virus that causes the common cold, while bacterial conjunctivitis is usually caused by a strain of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. It can be caused by allergies as well as exposure to irritants such as smoke, dust, and chlorine. 

Other conditions that mimic conjunctivitis include allergies, dry eye syndrome, blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids), keratitis (inflammation of the cornea), and uveitis (inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye).

Did you know that conjunctivitis can be spread through contact with an infected person?

What are the signs and symptoms?

The following symptoms are common in children with conjunctivitis:

  • Eye redness and swelling 
  • Eye itchiness or burning sensation 
  • Eye discharge that can be watery, thick, or pus-like. 
  • Increased sensitivity to light 
  • Swollen lymph nodes near the affected eye 
  • Crusting of the eyelids or lashes 
  • Blurred vision

Because infants and toddlers cannot always express their symptoms clearly, parents and caregivers should look for the signs, such as 

  • Avoiding bright lights and squinting
  • Frequently covering and rubbing their eyes
  • Having trouble concentrating

Symptoms appear within 24 to 48 hours of exposure and can last for a few days to a week.

What are the different types of conjunctivitis in children?

There are several types of conjunctivitis that can affect children. They include: 

  • Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen, dust, pet dander, or other allergens. 
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection, usually from a virus or bacteria. 
  • Viral conjunctivitis is caused by a virus such as the common cold or the flu. 
  • Chemical conjunctivitis is caused by exposure to irritants such as chlorine, smoke, or fumes. 
  • Giant papillary conjunctivitis is caused by an allergic reaction to contact lenses or other foreign objects in the eye.
  • Neonatal conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection that is passed from mother to baby during birth.


What are the treatment options?


Conjunctivitis is typically diagnosed by a physical examination of the eyes. The doctor will look for signs of redness, swelling, and discharge. They may also take a sample of the discharge to test for bacteria or viruses. In some cases, they may also use a special dye to look for any abnormalities in the eye.

Treatment options for conjunctivitis depend on the underlying cause. Bacterial conjunctivitis is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment, while viral conjunctivitis is typically treated with antiviral medications. Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with antihistamine eye drops or oral antihistamines. In some cases, artificial tears may be recommended to help relieve symptoms.


Is conjunctivitis contagious?

Yes, conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can be spread through contact with an infected person’s eye secretions, such as tears or mucus. 

It can also be spread through contact with contaminated objects, such as towels, washcloths, and eye makeup. It is important to practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of conjunctivitis.

Tips for parents to prevent conjunctivitis in children

To prevent conjunctivitis in children, it is important to practice good hygiene. Here are a few recommendations to lower your child’s risk of contracting an eye infection.

  • Ensure that your child washes their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water after using the restroom, before eating, and after playing.
  • Make it a point to discourage your child from sharing towels, washcloths, or other personal items with others.
  • Discourage your child from rubbing or touching their eyes.
  • Check that your child’s vaccinations are up to date.
  • Keep your child away from people who have conjunctivitis or other eye infections.
  • Do not share eye drops if more than one member of the family is affected.
  • Clean and disinfect any toys or surfaces that your child may have touched if someone in the household has conjunctivitis or another eye infection.
  • Avoid sending children to school until the eye discharge has subsided.
  • Ensure your child gets plenty of rest and eats a healthy diet.

However, if your child has an eye infection, it is important to clean the eye area regularly. To do this, you should use a clean, damp cloth or cotton ball to gently wipe away any discharge from the eye. 

You should also use a clean cloth or cotton ball to wipe away any crust that may have formed around the eye. Be sure to use a separate cloth or cotton ball for each eye to avoid spreading the infection. If your child is wearing contact lenses, you should remove them and clean them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

If the symptoms last more than a week, or if the child develops vision problems, or if the child has a high fever or swelling that is progressively worsening, you should contact your paediatrician right away.


About Author –

Dr. Suresh Kumar Panuganti, Lead Consultant - Pediatric Critical Care and Pediatrics, Yashoda Hospitals – Hyderabad

DCH, DNB (Pediatrics), Fellowship in Pediatric Critical Care (UK), PG Diploma in Pediatrics and Child Health (Imperial College, London)

Lead Consultant - Pediatric Critical Care and Pediatrics

Dr. Suresh Kumar Panuganti

DCH, DNB (Pediatrics), Fellowship in Pediatric Critical Care (UK), PG Diploma in Pediatrics and Child Health (Imperial College, London)
Lead Consultant-Pediatric Critical Care and Pediatrics

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