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Pink eye (also called conjunctivitis) is redness and swelling of the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane that lines the eyelid and eye surface.


Pink eye is very common. It usually is not serious and goes away in 7 to 10 days without medical treatment.

  • Children with pinkeye often say their eyes hurt or itch.
  • The whites of the eyes turn pink or red and there may be a lot of tears or pus in the eyes. The pus often makes the eyelids stick together when the child wakes up.
  • Too much rubbing or allergies may also cause the whites of the eyes to turn red and feel sore. There may be lots of tears but there will be no pus. These kinds of eye problems are not catching. A doctor will be able to tell the difference.

Not all cases of pinkeye need antibiotics. Children with pinkeye should see a doctor to see if the pinkeye is caused by bacteria and if an antibiotic is needed. Viral and bacterial pink eye are contagious and spread very easily.


Most cases of pink eye are caused by the following:

  • Infections caused by viruses or bacteria.
  • Dry eyes from lack of tears or exposure to wind and sun.
  • Chemicals, fumes, or smoke (chemical conjunctivitis).
  • Allergies.

How is pinkeye spread?

  • A child touches the discharge from the eye and then touches another child.
  • A child touches the discharge from another child and then touches his or her own eye.
  • An adult wipes an infected child’s eyes and then touches an eye.


Home treatment for pink eye will help reduce your pain and keep your eye free of drainage.

What to do at home:

  • If another child has pinkeye, watch your child for signs of pinkeye.
  • Talk to your doctor if your child has pinkeye. It is not easy to tell if pinkeye is caused by a virus or by bacteria. The doctor may prescribe an antibiotic for your child.
  • Wash your and your child’s hands carefully after touching or wiping the child’s eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Do not let your child share facecloths or towels with anyone. 
  • Clean objects commonly touched by the child’s hands or face, such as pillowcases, cuddle blankets and toys.
  • Try not to touch the infected eye. A cloth dipped in warm water can gently remove any discharge.

When your child has pinkeye, your health care provider can tell you if your child can return to school or child care centre, or should stay home.

If your child’s health care provider has prescribed antibiotic drops or ointment, your child should use the antibiotic for a full day (24 hours) before returning to the child care centre or school.