Health > Eye Diseases >Pink Eye
Causes of Pinkeye
Pinkeye can be caused by many of the bacteria and viruses responsible for colds and other infections, — including ear infections, sinus infections, and sore throats — and by the same types of bacteria that cause the sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Pinkeye also can be caused by allergies. These cases tend to happen more frequently among kids who also have other allergic conditions, such as hay fever. Some triggers of allergic conjunctivitis include grass, ragweed pollen, animal dander, and dust mites.
Sometimes a substance in the environment can irritate the eyes and cause pinkeye; for example, chemicals (such as chlorine and soaps) and air pollutants (such as smoke and fumes).
To prevent pinkeye caused by infections, teach kids to wash their hands often with warm water and soap. They also should not share eye drops, tissues, eye makeup, washcloths, towels, or pillowcases with other people.
Be sure to wash your own hands thoroughly after touching an infected child's eyes, and throw away items like gauze or cotton balls after they've been used. Wash towels and other linens that the child has used in hot water separately from the rest of the family's laundry to avoid contamination.
If you know your child is prone to allergic conjunctivitis, keep windows and doors closed on days when the pollen is heavy, and dust and vacuum frequently to limit allergy triggers in the home. Irritant conjunctivitis can only be prevented by avoiding the irritating causes.
Many cases of pinkeye in newborns can be prevented by screening and treating pregnant women for STDs. A pregnant woman may have bacteria in her birth canal even if she shows no symptoms, which is why prenatal screening is important.
Pinkeye caused by a virus usually goes away on its own without any treatment. If a doctor suspects that the pinkeye has been caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotic eye drops or ointment will be prescribed.
Sometimes it can be a challenge to get kids to tolerate eye drops several times a day. If you're having trouble, put the drops on the inner corner of your child's closed eye — when the child opens the eye, the medicine will flow into it. If you continue to have trouble with drops, ask the doctor about antibiotic ointment. It can be applied in a thin layer where the eyelids meet, and will melt and enter the eye.
If your child has allergic conjunctivitis, your doctor may prescribe anti-allergy medication, which comes in the form of pills, liquid, or eye drops.
Cool or warm compresses and acetaminophen or ibuprofen may make a child with pinkeye feel more comfortable. You can clean the edges of the infected eye carefully with warm water and gauze or cotton balls. This can also remove the crusts of dried discharge that may cause the eyelids to stick together first thing in the morning.