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November 2015 | Volume 5, Number 10




To see Children's of Alabama experts discuss this topic, click here. 

Pinkeye is the most common eye problem children can have, but it can be alarming when it happens to your child. Pinkeye, or conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids.

Dr. Christina Fettig, a pediatrician with Mayfair Medical Group in Homewood, says the most common symptoms of pinkeye include:


  • Reddening of the eye
  • Discomfort
  • Tearing or draining from the eye
  • Feeling like there’s sand in the eye

You’ve probably heard that pinkeye is highly contagious. Dr. Fettig explains there are actuallyfour different types of pinkeye, two that are contagious and two that are not.

Contagious Forms of Pinkeye

  • Viral (often accompanied by the common cold, usually goes away on its own)
  • Bacterial (very common, can be treated with drops)

Non Contagious Forms of Pinkeye

  • Allergy based (more prone in children with allergies, especially seasonal allergies)
  • Irritant caused (swimming)

Because there are multiple types of pinkeye, it’s especially important to see your child’s pediatrician early to identify which type it is and the course of treatment.

“It is important, especially with bacterial pinkeye,” Fettig said. “If started early enough eye drops can decrease the duration of symptoms.”

In addition, doctors usually recommend keeping kids who have been diagnosed with contagious conjunctivitis out of school or daycare until the symptoms have been resolved.


Simple hand washing is the number one way to prevent pinkeye. Children should be taught to wash their hands well and frequently with warm water and soap. Parents should remember to wash their own hands thoroughly after touching their child’s eyes, particularly after treating their infected child with eye drops.

While contagious pinkeye may be uncomfortable and inconvenient, there is good news. Pinkeye caused by a virus will usually resolve on its own. Bacterial pinkeye is easily treatable. And in most cases, conjunctivitis causes no long term eye or vision damage.

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