If your kids are heading back to school in a couple of weeks, make sure to read this parents’ guide to pink eye. These viral or bacterial infections spread fast in classrooms.

Parents' Guide to Pink Eye

What Are the Main Causes of Pink eye (Conjunctivitis)?

Conjunctivitis can be caused by a virus, bacteria or by allergies. Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are easily spread from person to person. Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious.

Viral conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis is the most common type of conjunctivitis. This type of pink eye is very contagious and often spreads through schools and other crowded places. It usually causes burning, red eyes with a watery discharge. Viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by the same virus that causes runny nose and sore throat in people with the common cold.

Bacterial conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis is also very contagious. An infection from bacteria causes this form of pinkeye. With bacterial conjunctivitis, you have sore, red eyes with a lot of sticky pus in the eye. Some bacterial infections, however, may cause little or no discharge. Sometimes the bacteria that cause pink eye are the same that cause strep throat.

Allergic conjunctivitis 

Allergic conjunctivitis is a type of pink eye that comes from an allergic reaction to pollen, animals, cigarette smoke, pool chlorine, car fumes or something else in the environment. It is not contagious. Allergic pink eye makes your eyes very itchy, red and watery, and the eyelids may get puffy.

Pink eye Symptoms:

Signs that your child may be getting or has pink eye: 

  • red eyes
  • burning eyes
  • itchy eyes
  • having a feeling that something is in the eye, or a gritty sensation in the eye
  • painful eyes (this is usually with the bacterial form)
  • watery eyes
  • puffy eyelids
  • blurry or hazy vision
  • being extra sensitive to light
  • lots of mucus, pus, or thick yellow discharge from the eye. There can be so much that eyelashes stick together.

Should I call my child's doctor about pink eye?

Sometimes you need to see a doctor for pink eye. It depends on what kind of pink eye and how bad it is. Make an appointment with an ophthalmologist right away if:

  • Your child has trouble seeing
  • Your child becomes sensitive to light
  • Your child's symptoms have continued for a week or more, or are getting worse
  • Your child's eye is producing a lot of pus or mucus
  • You child has any other symptoms of an infection, like fever or achiness

Pink eye is a common cause of school absences and can spread quickly in schools. Make sure your kids know how to keep from getting pink eye and other infections.


Home remedies for pink eye:

Conjunctivitis usually goes away on its own within 1–2 weeks. If symptoms last longer than that, schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist. They can make sure there isn't a more serious eye problem.

Bacterial and viral pink eye home remedies:

If one or both eyes are red and uncomfortable, it could be allergic pinkeye, viral pinkeye or bacterial pink eye. Sometimes it's easy to figure out what kind of pink eye your child has and other times only a doctor can tell what's causing the problem.

Viral pinkeye is like a common cold in the eye. There is no treatment for the virus and usually you just have to let it heal on its own. Viral pink eye should go away within a week or two without treatment.

Bacterial pinkeye usually produces more mucus or pus than viral or allergic pink eye. Bacterial pink eye can be treated with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.

To reduce the symptoms of bacterial or viral pink eye you can:

  • Reduce pain by giving an over-the-counter pain killer, talk to your child's doctor about safe dosage
  • Use over-the-counter lubricating eye drops (artificial tears).
  • Put a warm, damp washcloth over your child's eyes for a few minutes.
    • To make this warm compress:
    • Soak a clean washcloth in warm water then wring it out so it’s not dripping.
    • Lay the damp cloth over your eyes and leave it in place until it cools.
    • Repeat this several times a day, or as often as is comfortable.
    • Use a clean washcloth each time so you don't spread the infection.
    • Use a different washcloth for each eye if you have infectious pink eye in both eyes.
  • If your eyelids are sticking together, a warm washcloth can loosen the dried mucus so you can open your eyes.

Allergic pink eye home remedies

If your child's conjunctivitis is caused by allergies, stopping the source of the allergy is important. Allergic pink eye will continue as long as they're in contact with whatever is causing it.

Allergic pink eye is not contagious. They can still go to school with allergic conjunctivitis and no one else will catch it. To reduce the symptoms of allergic pink eye you can:

  • Take allergy medicine or use allergy eye drops.
  • Put a cool, damp washcloth over your child's eyes for a few minutes.
  • Use over-the-counter lubricating eye drops (artificial tears).

Stop the spread of viral and bacterial pinkeye:

Pink eye is highly contagious.  Basic hygiene is enough to keep from spreading the infection to other people or your other eye.

  • Change pillowcases and sheets every day.
  • Use a fresh towel every day.
  • Encourage your child to wash their hands often, especially after they touch their eyes.
  • Don't wear contact lenses until their eyes are back to normal.
  • Don't share anything that touches their eyes.
  • Bacteria can live in makeup, and this can cause pink eye and even a dangerous infection of the cornea. Do not use eye makeup while eyes are infected. Replace makeup when an eye infection happens and never share eye makeup with others.
  • Children who are not able to practice good hygiene or can't avoid close contact with others should stay home from school until symptoms clear up.

Learn more:

Conjunctivitis: What Is Pink Eye?

Quick Home Remedies for Pink Eye


Make an appointment today.

Our team is ready to help you. Schedule an appointment online today.

Connect With Us!

Sign up for our Health e-Newsletter

Inspired Health Group

3671 Southwestern Blvd.
Suites 101 & 213
Orchard Park, NY 14127-1752

Contact Us

(716) 662-7008 Office
(716) 662-5226 Fax
View Contact Info

Office Hours

Office Closed
View Office Hours by Practitioner