Conjunctivitis aka Pink Eye

Pink Eye or Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as Pink Eye is a very common problem and treated very easily.  More common for pre-K and elementary school aged kids but everyone is at risk because it is so contagious (watch out parents!)
Conjunctivitis can have several causes:

  1. Viral conjunctivitis is caused by a virus. This type of pink eye is very contagious but usually will clear up by itself in a few days.
  2. Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria and can cause damage to the eye if left untreated
  3. Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by irritants such as pollen, dust and animal dander. Allergic conjunctivitis may be seasonal or flare up year round.

Symptoms include pink appearance of the eye (hence the name!) and these:

  1. Viral conjunctivitis: watery itchy eyes, sensitivity to light. One or both eyes can be affected.  Can be spread by coughing or sneezing and very contagious
  2. Bacterial conjunctivitis: a sticky, yellow or greenish-yellow discharge in the corner of the eye. Sometimes this discharge can cause the eyelids to stick together.  One or both eyes can be affected.  Contagious usually by direct contact with infected hand or item.
  3. Allergic conjunctivitis: watery, burning and itchy eyes may also have a stuffy nose and light sensitivity.  Both eyes are affected and this type IS NOT contagious.


  1. Viral:  most cases the conjunctivitis will run its course over a few days and no medical treatment is necessary.  Cold washcloth to the eyes several times per day can be helpful for the symptoms.
  2. Bacterial: Potomac Pediatrics will prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment for treatment. This can be triaged over the phone.  Please call and speak with one of our triage nurses and they will be happy to talk about your child’s symptoms.
  3. Allergic: Some allergy medicines can help prevent and/or shorten the duration of conjunctivitis.  Some medicines can be started before flare ups so ask one of our practitioners for details during your child’s well check exam or our one of our triage nurses.

10 Steps to protect yourself and your kids from Pink Eye

  1. Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing
  2. Wash your hands frequently. When the kids come off the bus at the end of the school day, have them wash their hands!
  3. Keep hand disinfectant in your car and use after being in a public area (grocery store, mall, etc)
  4. Wipe down surfaces in your house frequently. Countertops, bathroom vanities, door handles, faucet handles and shared phones are all great places for germs to hide.
  5. Don’t rub or itch your eyes unless you know your hands are clean!
  6. Never share contacts lenses with friends and if you wear contacts make sure you clean them following your eye doctor’s instructions.
  7. If you wear contacts, take them out before showering or swimming to avoid bacteria being caught between your eyes.
  8. Wear goggles when swimming. Bacteria and other microorganisms can lurk in the water!
  9. If you have seasonal allergies, ask one of our practitioners how to minimize your symptoms before they begin.
  10. Never share personal items (towels, washcloths, tissues – anything that touches your face)

Call our nurse triage line if you suspect your child is suffering from any of these symptoms.