Pink Eye

The Allergy Kit

About Pink Eye


Pink eye, also referred to as conjunctivitis, is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, or the mucous membrane that covers the white part of the eye. This disorder is most commonly caused by a virus, bacteria, or allergies, each of which will be discussed below.

Symptoms of pink eye commonly include: a red, irritated appearance of the eye; inflammed eyelids; an unusual degree of tearing; feeling as though a foreign object is lodged in the eye; an uncomfortable burning sensation; an uncomfortable reaction to bright light; and drainage.

Viral Conjunctivitis

This type of pink eye is caused by an adenovirus. It’s extremely contagious and symptoms will usually manifest seven to ten days after an individual comes into contact with someone infected with it. In addition to appearing very pink, the affected eye is also itchy and watery. Although the infection will start in one eye, within a couple of days it can spread to the other eye. Other symptoms of viral conjunctivitis are swollen lymph nodes in the front of the ear or below the rim of the jaw, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light.

Pink eye can last several weeks. The adenovirus which causes this condition also is responsible for causing the common cold. This is why the treatment for conjunctivitis closely resembles that which is recommended for individuals suffering from a cold. Antibiotics are not very effective, so usually physicians will recommend lots of rest, plenty of fluids, antihistamines, cold compresses for swelling, and Ibuprofen or Tylenol for the discomfort.

Since conjunctivitis is extremely contagious, infected individuals should be very careful and take extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. These individuals should try to ensure that material that has touched the eye (e.g. face cloths, pillowcases, tissues) are discarded and not touched by someone else. If an individual does come in contact with material that may be infected with the virus, that person should make sure they wash their hands thoroughly to avoid introducing the virus to their system.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis is a little different than viral pink eye in that the eyes are markedly inflamed, bright red in color, and they produce a thick yellow mucous discharge. The onset for conjunctivitis caused by a virus is quicker, and occurs within days of coming into contact with an affected individual. And unlike viral pink eye, the lymph nodes are rarely swollen.

An individual will contract bacterial conjunctivitis by coming into contact with the bacteria. There is regular bacteria present in the eye but this conjunctivitis bacteria causes the redness and swelling and is introduced by transfer from an infected object. If you have touched something with the bacteria (e.g. nose, mouth, hands, etc) and rub your eyes afterwards, this contact will be enough to cause the condition. Normally, the eye is equipped to fight this infection and prevent it from occurring by either the use of the eyelids, or the ingredients in tears and epithelial cells. When these mechanisms are compromised, however (e.g. scratch, dry eyes, chemical exposure, etc), the opportunity for infection increases.

Unlike cases of viral conjunctivitis, antibiotics can effectively treat bacterial pink eye. The key to fighting this infection is to correctly identify the bacteria causing the infection and then treat it with the correct antibiotics. Some physicians may try one antibiotic and wait a few days to see if the infection begins to clear up and if not, prescribe a new antibiotic. Other physicians may take a culture to identify the bacterium and determine its sensitivity to various antibiotics. This is usually done in severe cases or persistent infections. In addition to taking antibiotics, infected individuals should clean the eye (removing the accumulated build up/crust) and apply warm compresses to ease the swelling.

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Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when an individual is in contact with an allergen and his or her body reacts by producing antibodies to battle the offending allergen. This action can cause the afflicted individual to experience further discomfort as his or her eyes are progressively inflamed. Allergic reactions involving the eyes usually consist of mild redness, itchiness, swelling, and excess tearing. This type of conjunctivitis normally occurs in both eyes.

For some people suffering with allergic conjunctivitis, the onset of symptoms is predictable as it’s associated with seasonal changes (e.g. pollen allergies) or eye products (e.g. contact solution). Others, however, may have trouble deciphering the cause as the symptoms occur more quickly and without warning.

Treatment for allergic conjunctivitis is the same as for other allergic reactions: antihistamines, decongestants, cold compresses, and medication to relieve the discomfort.

Who Contracts Pink Eye?

Anyone can become infected with pink eye or other forms of conjunctivitis. Most commonly, though, it is found in children. This is why when a case of conjunctivitis is found in a school, it can be expected that several more cases will occur with some children contracting it multiple times as it makes its rounds.

Newborn babies can also end up with conjunctivitis, most commonly bacterial. This would normally occur during birth if the mother has, for example, a sexually transmitted infection such as Chlamydia. This disease can be passed onto the newborn during birth which will result in conjunctivitis. This is one of the reasons why newborns are evaluated quickly upon birth to determine if these types of infections have occurred. Treatment is started immediately if infection is detected, in order to prevent long term, permanent damage.


Conjunctivitis, whether viral, bacterial, or allergic can be extremely uncomfortable for the individual suffering from the condition. To avoid catching the infection, individuals should take precautions and practice good hygiene (hand washing techniques) and avoid touching material and surfaces that may have come into contact with someone who has the infection. If unsure, always wash your hands to minimize the risk of coming into contact with infections.


Pink eye is normally a very treatable condition and can be cleared up very quickly. But if untreated, long term damage to the eye can occur resulting in partial or total vision loss. Therefore, pink eye should be treated seriously and appropriate treatment quickly applied depending on the type of conjunctivitis.

Individuals suffering from conjunctivitis need to take caution when using steroid type eye drops since this medication has been linked to glaucoma. Additionally, individuals need to exercise caution and not overuse Visine or other over the counter eye drops which claim to ease the redness as they have been known to cause more redness with prolonged, excessive use.

The Allergy Kit


Pink eye and other conjunctivitis infections can cause extreme discomfort and considerable inconvenience, but in most cases the treatment is quite simple. After several days, the condition will usually improve and the infection will clear up. In the cases where there is a persistent infection, stronger antibiotics may be prescribed by the physician or if the conjunctivitis is caused by allergies, minimizing contact with the suspected allergen will alleviate the symptoms.

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