Got Pink Eye? Eye-Opening Advice For Toddler Eye Infections

Photo Belinda Yebra|CC

Pinkeye (also called conjunctivitis) is a common eye infection among both children and adults, but especially toddlers.  Children typically appear quite healthy — running around, active, with no fever. However their bright red eyes are the tell-tell sign.

Symptoms of Pink Eye in Toddlers

Pinkeye is quite obvious with eyelids appearing red, watery, and swollen. Often there is “crusting” of the eyelids, particularly when waking up in the morning, with the eyes appearing gooey and closed shut.

List of pink eye symptoms

  • Red-colored, either one or both
  • Watery, excessive clear tearlike secretions
  • Crusty eyes, particularly after waking
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Itchy eyes — children rub and scratch them
Toddler girl with pinkeye sitting in stroller
Photo NCBrian|CC

How do you Get Pink Eye?

Viruses, bacteria, allergic reactions, and chemicals (like chlorine in pool water) can all cause pinkeye. Unlike allergic or chemical causes which cause watery, tear like red eyes, bacterial pinkeye usually has a thick, green or yellow discharge.

Viral pinkeye may or may not have a thick discharge, and it is often impossible to tell between viral and bacterial. Pediatricians often treat the infection as bacterial, in order to minimize spread.

Tips for Limiting the Spread of Conjunctivitis Infection

Both viral and bacterial pinkeye are highly contagious and easily spread between family members. Children can also re-infect their eyes after treatment.

  • Contact your doctor quickly. For bacterial pinkeye, early treatment can prevent the spread of infection to both eyes, and limit the spread to other family members. Unfortunately there is no treatment for viral pinkeye.
  • Use warm compresses to keep the eyes clean. Try to de-crust the eyes before toddlers little hands start picking and rubbing the area. This is particularly important when waking in the morning.
  • Put away stuff animals and toys that are difficult to clean. Some types of viral pinkeye can stay around for up to 14 days after the infection appears.
  • Change hand and bath towels. Wet towels are big cause of spreading between family members.
  • Change pillow cases and sheets. Pillows are another big source of infection.
  • Use hand sanitizer. The number one way to prevent the spread of infection is to wash hands often.
  • Keep children home. Do not send your child to school or day care with pinkeye.  This is frustrating for parents, as toddlers are still active and feeling well, but essential to limit the spread of disease.  Speak with your pediatrician and school about when your child can return.

Eye infections in toddlers are very contagious. Avoid direct contact with your child’s eyes or drainage from them.

Keeping little hands (and your own) clean is the best way to limit infection and spread.