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House Calls: Pinkeye

Q: My child’s eyes are red and irritated. Could he have pinkeye?

A: Red, uncomfortable eyes may be signs your child has pinkeye (conjunctivitis), an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the eye’s white part and the eyelid’s inner surface. While symptoms vary, common signs include eye discharge and sensitivity to bright light.

Allergies, eye irritants or viral and bacterial infections spread via contact, coughing or sneezing can cause pinkeye. To prevent conjunctivitis, your child should wash his or her hands frequently and avoid sharing eye drops or towels. Be sure to vacuum your home and close windows and doors on heavy pollen days.

If you suspect your child has pinkeye, contact your pediatrician. While noninfectious pinkeye usually clears without treatment, bacterial cases must be treated with a prescription ointment or eyedrops.