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Back to School: Pink Eye

While cases of conjunctivitis “pink eye” are often associated with cold and flu season, it is also something that tends to crop up as children go back to school and are sharing books, food and more in classrooms.

What is Pink Eye?

Conjunctivitis “Pink Eye” is a highly contagious, viral infection that is spread easily. It is characterized by an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, clear tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and the white part of the eyeball. It is this inflammation that makes blood vessels more visible and gives the eye a pink or sometimes reddish color. [source]

4 Causes of Pink Eye

There are four main causes of pink eye:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Allergens (pet dander, dust)
  • Irritants (ex: swimming pool chlorine)

Tell Tale Signs of Pink Eye

While some symptoms of pink eye may vary, the common tell tale signs include:

  • redness/swelling of the white of the eye
  • clear, yellow, white or green discharge from the eye
  • difficulty opening eyes in the morning (due to crusting from discharge)
  • sensitivity to light
  • gritty feeling inside of the eye
  • crusting around the eye


Facts About Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis . . .

  • simply means ‘irritation of the tissues surrounding the eyeball’
  • is caused by an infection (bacterial or viral)
  • can be noninfectious
  • is most commonly related to allergies
  • can occur in conjunction with cold symptoms
  • normally lasts 5 to 7 days but sometimes can last longer

Preventing the Spread of Pink Eye

If your child has contracted pink eye, follow these tips to prevent spreading it to others.

#1 – Don’t share!

Pink eye can be spread by contact with secretions. Because it is highly contagious, it is important not to share tissues/towels/pillows/sheets/cosmetics.

#2 – Wash your hands!

Good hand washing is important to prevent the spread as well as trying not to come in contact with contaminated objects

#3 – Take prescribed medication.

Usually is recommended to have at least 24 hours of topical antibiotics prior to going back to school or daycare

#4 – Follow up with your doctor.

It is important to see your doctor especially if there is eye pain or blurry vision but also to see if antibiotics will be needed.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also offers helpful tips for preventing the spread of conjunctivitis.

About Jodi Miller, DO

Dr. Jodi Miller is a primary care physician at WakeMed Physician Practices – Primary Care – Garner. She has clinical interests in family and geriatric medicine and chronic disease management and 20+ years of experience in family and urgent care medicine. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Miller.