I remember going to school and talking with other kids about how they had pink eye or they stayed home because they had pink eye. I used to think it was a serious thing because everything seems so scary when you’re a little kid but, for the most part, pink eye is pretty mild.

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an infection in the conjunctiva (yeah, didn’t know that was a thing) which is the tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and covers the white of the eye. These infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or allergens—there are other causes but these are the main three. Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are contagious so take the proper precautions; you should still take proper precautions with allergic conjunctivitis or conjunctivitis caused by irritants in the eye, but at least people won’t have to fear you.

Standard symptoms include:

  • Pink/red color in the white of the eye
  • Swelling in the conjunctiva and/or eyelid
  • Tears
  • Uncomfortable feeling in the eye (as if you have something in your eye)
  • Urge to rub the eye
  • Itching, irritation, and/or burning
  • Discharge
  • Crusting around eyelid and/or lashes
  • Contact lenses feel uncomfortable and/or do not stay in place

Viral pink eye can also occur with cold, flu, or other respiratory infection symptoms and usually only starts in one eye (before moving to the other). Discharge is also watery.

Bacterial conjunctivitis has more discharge which can cause the eyelids to stick together and may also occur with an ear infection.

Allergic conjunctivitis will usually affect both eyes at once and follows with other allergy symptoms (watery eyes, itching, sneezing, etc.).

Take proper care not to spread conjunctivitis if you have a viral or bacterial kind. Wash your hands and try not to touch your eyes. You may want to change your bedding out too. If you wear contacts, consult your doctor before wearing them again. And just don’t share germs.

See your doctor if your eyes hurt, your vision is blurry or you become sensitive to light, symptoms don’t improve after 24 hours of taking antibiotics, or you have a compromised immune system.

Info: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/conjunctivitis/about/causes.html

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