Pink eye in toddlers: Everything you need to understand

Pink eye, which doctors call conjunctivitis, is irritation and redness in the conjunctiva of the eye. The conjunctiva is the clear membrane that outlines the front of the eye and eyelids.

Pink eye is more common among toddlers and younger children, who may wipe their eyes and transmit infections to other kids at preschool, daycare, or on the playground.

Infections, allergies, and toxins, such as sand or chemicals, can cause pink eye. However, viral and bacterial infections are the culprits in most cases.

Pink eye usually clears up by itself, but some people need treatment. Other conditions may mimic symptoms of pink eye, so anyone suffering from persistent or bothersome eye irritation should consider seeing an eye doctor for advice and diagnosis.
Symptoms of pink eye include:

  • dry, itchy, red eyes
  • watery eyes
  • frequent blinking
  • a feeling of something stuck in the eye
  • light sensitivity
  • puffy eyelids
  • discharge from red, irritated-looking eyes
  • In some cases, pink eye can be painful.

Sometimes, toddlers cannot express their signs or symptoms clearly, so moms and dads and carers should check whether the child is:

  • avoiding bright lights
  • frequently covering their eyes
  • rubbing their eyes
  • crying often or having more tantrums
  • having trouble concentrating
  • squinting
  • Is red eye contagious?

Pink eye is contagious when a microbial or viral infection causes symptoms. And yet, infections do not really create all forms of pink eye. Sometimes, allergies or eye irritation can cause pink eye.

Parents and carers of toddlers with pink eye should believe the child is contagious and keep them home from daycare or school, particularly if they have a fever or are not feeling well. Some doctors, as well as some schools and daycares, recommend that students stay home until their pink eye symptoms have resolved.

Generally in most cases, pink eye due to illness remains contagious for as long as a person still has symptoms. In accordance to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), bacterial pink eye usually lasts about five to 10 days and often clears up faster with antibiotics. Viral pink eye can last as for instance long as 14 times, though that it usually improves much sooner. Viral pink eye will not respond to antibiotics.