Pink Eye

“Pink eye” or conjunctivitis is a general term that refers to a pink or bloodshot appearance of the whites of the eye or eyes.  Sometimes the pink color is also associated with excessive tearing, itchy eyes, light sensitivity, or a mucous discharge or “matter.”  The lids may be puffy – especially immediately after a child wakes up, and the lids may be crusted shut with mucous.  The salts in tears dry to a crust.  The protein in tears often causes a whitish or yellowish mucous-like discharge. 

 Pink eye has many causes: 

  • Eyes may turn pink due to irritation (ex. dust, shampoo, or a scratch to the eye). 
  • Allergies may cause redness of both eyes and cause itchiness.  Allergic conjunctivitis often involves a clear runny nose. 
  • Infants under the age of one may have a blocked tear duct.  These children have tearing or matter from one or both eyes, but the whites of the eyes are not pink.  This condition requires no treatment unless it persists beyond a year of age.
  • The most common cause of pink eye is a virus.  It is simply a “cold” in the eye.  For some reason, daycares and schools often panic about this condition, yet children with a cough or runny nose are far more contagious than children with viral conjunctivitis, and the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend school exclusion.  These children typically have a runny nose and or a cough.  Both eyes tend to be pink, and may have impressive amounts of yellowish or mucous-like discharge.  No special treatment is required for these children other than lid soaks.  Bacterial eye drops will not help a viral infection.  If the eye symptoms worsen, especially as the cold symptoms resolve, call our office during office hours.
  • Some conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria.  A bacterial cause is more likely when cold symptoms are not present.  It typically involves only one eye, but it may involve both.  Bacterial conjunctivitis is treated with prescription antibiotic drops. 



 Wait – the puffiness of your child’s eyes often improves an hour or so after your child gets up.  

 Most cases of pink eye are caused by a virus – it is a “cold” in the eye.  If your child has a runny nose and cold symptoms with the red eyes, it is fine to watch them for a few days.  If symptoms worsen over 3-4 days, call the office during office hours. 

 Lid Soaks – Moisten a clean cotton ball or washcloth and gently wipe the gooey lids.  If your child’s eyes are crusted shut, you may use a few drops of dilute baby shampoo to clean the lashes.  If the skin around the eyes becomes chapped, it is fine to use a plain emollient, such as petroleum jelly.

Treat allergies – For itchy eyes, you may use Benadryl or Claritin by mouth.  If your child has allergies and these products are not helping, you may get an allergy eye drops over the counter, such as Zaditor or Patanol. 

Stay home – If your child has a fever or excessive cough or runny nose, he should not go to school or daycare, regardless of how the eyes look.  If your child has allergies, he is obviously not contagious and may attend school. 



Please call the office immediately if your child has vision change, eye pain, sensitivity to light, blisters around the eye, or increasing redness/warmth/pain around an eye. 

Call or Visit

  • phone: (616) 243-9515

  • FAX: (616) 243-1815

  • after hours: (616) 776-7401

  • or contact us via the Patient Portal

  • Alger Pediatrics
    733 Alger St. SE
    Grand Rapids, MI 49507