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Does Your Child Have Pink Eye or Allergies

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the “conjunctiva” tissue underneath the eyelids and on the whites of the eyes, which turns the eyes pink.  Conjunctivitis is one of the most common childhood eye problems, but it is also one of the most treatable.  However, there are some big differences between the sources of conjunctivitis, which all come with recognizable symptoms. 

How to Identify that Your Child Has Eye Allergies

When eyes are itchy, runny and pink, it may be a sign of conjunctivitis.  An environmental allergic reaction can lead to a condition called allergic conjunctivitis. Unlike bacterial or viral conjunctivitis, allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and doesn’t required keeping your child out of school. A child suffering from allergic conjunctivitis may experience redness, swollen eyelids, an increased number of tears, itchy eyes and blurred vision; however, allergies are not going to produce the same kind of discharge or crusting that is a hallmark of an actual eye infection.  Eye allergies can be managed with antihistamines or other pharmaceutical relief options (lubricants and decongestants), or by limiting exposure to allergens (seasonal ones like grass and pollen or perennial ones like dust, mold, and animals).

Infectious Pink Eye in Children

True pink eye derives from viral and bacterial infections of the conjunctiva underneath the eyelids and on the whites of the eyes.  These infections begin in one eye only and can spread to the other if not treated promptly.  They are extremely contagious, so proper handwashing is absolutely essential.  If diagnosed with pink eye, children should remain at home from daycare or school for a few days or until whenever the infection starts to clear. 

Bacterial conjunctivitis (most commonly found in the staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria), is treatable with antibiotics that will typically clear the infection in 24 to 48 hours.  Viral conjunctivitis, on the other hand, needs to run its course, like all viral infections.  A bacterial infection in the eyes comes with a heavy, yellow-green discharge, and it can also create a crust over the eyes.  Viral pink eye is identified by its watery discharge and in some instances by a swollen lymph node by the ear or under the jaw. 

Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are the infectious forms of pink eye, and these are the ones that need to be monitored closely.  Although very treatable, these conditions could have adverse effects on vision if not treated quickly and well.  Always consult with an eye doctor if symptoms arise or advance in unpredictable ways.  Keep hands clean and away from the eyes, and stay clear of close interactions with others until symptoms improve.