Pink eye in toddlers: Everything you need to know

Pink eye, which physicians call conjunctivitis, is irritation and redness in the conjunctiva of the eye. The conjunctiva is the transparent membrane that outlines the front side of the eye and eyelids.

Pink eye is more common among toddlers and younger children, who may rub their eyes and transmit infections to other kids at preschool, daycare, or on the playground.

Infection, allergies, and toxins, such as sand or chemicals, can lead to pink eye. However, viral and bacterial infections are the culprits in most cases.

Pink eye usually clears up by itself, but some people require treatment. Other conditions may mimic symptoms of pink eye, so anyone suffering from persistent or annoying eye irritation should consider seeing an eye doctor for advice and diagnosis.
Symptoms of pink eye include:

  • dry, itchy, red eyes
  • watery eyes
  • frequent blinking
  • a feeling of something stuck in the eye
  • light sensitivity
  • puffy eyelids
  • discharge from red, irritated-looking eyes
  • In some cases, pink eye can be painful.

Sometimes, toddlers cannot express their symptoms clearly, so moms and dads and carers should check whether the child is:

  • avoiding bright lights
  • frequently covering their eyes
  • rubbing their eyes
  • crying often or having more tantrums
  • having trouble concentrating
  • squinting
  • Is red eye contagious?

Pink eye is infectious when a bacterial or viral infection causes symptoms. However, infections do not really create all forms of pink eye. Sometimes, allergies or eye irritation can lead to pink eye.

Parents and carers of toddlers with pink eye must believe the child is infectious and keep them home from daycare or school, particularly if they have a fever or are not feeling well. Some doctors, as well as some educational institutions and daycares, recommend that children stay home until their pink eye symptoms have resolved.

In most cases, pink eye due to infection remains contagious for as longer as a person still has symptoms. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), bacterial pink eye usually lasts about five to 10 days and often clears up faster with antibiotics. Viral pink eye can last as long as 14 days, though that it usually improves much sooner. Viral pink eye will not respond to antibiotics.