Keeping Clear – How to Treat and Prevent Pink Eye

Reading. Writing. Arithmetic. Kids have enough to work on at school without worrying about pink eye. Despite pink being most girls’ favourite colour, neither they nor the boys want that particular colour affecting their eyes. Anyone can catch pink eye, but school children are especially at risk, with 3 million school days missed each year due to pink eye infections. Typical pink eye infections last two to three days, but some severe cases can last several weeks. Pink eye is highly contagious but easily treated providing you seek professional treatment. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of pink eye, the treatment and ways to prevent it spreading to others. Here are some tricks of the optometrist’s trade to prevent your child from catching pink eye and how to treat it if he or she is already infected.

Pink eye, or to call it by its medical term conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. Pink eye can be spread very quickly and easily through direct contact with an infected person’s eye fluid or body fluids such as mucus from sneezing or a runny nose, or through coughing. You may also get pink eye indirectly if you or your child comes into contact with an infected person’s eye drainage on items like pillowcases, sheets, or towels.


There are three common types of pink eye: viral, bacterial, and allergic. Viral pink eye is, just like the many different strands of the common cold, caused by a virus that infects the body. Most viruses that cause this type of pink eye are spread through hand-to-eye contact by hands or objects that are contaminated with the infection.

Bacterial pink eye is caused by bacteria and is spread through direct hand-to-eye contact from contaminated hands. Both viral and bacterial types are highly contagious.

Allergic pink eye is caused by eye irritants such as dust or pollen. This type can be seasonal (usually related to heavier pollen count in the air during the spring) or year-round, depending on a person’s susceptibility, location, and level of contact with pets or farm animals.


The most common symptom of viral pink eye is a watery mucous discharge from the eye. Your eyes become watery, itchy, and sensitive to light. This type is usually spread by coughing and sneezing. Bacterial pink eye causes a red or pink eye with pus. Symptoms include redness, irritation and a discharge that can crust over during sleep. This type is usually noticeably worse than the other two. Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by common eye irritants such as dust, pollen and animal hair. This form is not contagious and affects both eyes. Symptoms include itching, redness, light sensitivity, and tearing. If you notice any unusual symptoms in or around your eyes, you should contact your eye-care expert right away.


It is always recommended to contact your local eye-care expert to determine exactly what type of pink eye you or your child has contracted. Viral pink eye can’t be treated with antibiotics and is usually healed naturally by the body without the need for medical treatment. Like the common cold, viral pink eye has to be allowed to run its course. Maintain optimal hygiene and apply cold compresses and eye drops to the eyes to reduce irritation and inflammation. Bacterial pink eye is more dangerous and can cause serious damage to the eye if left untreated. Your eye-care expert will usually recommend prescription antibiotic eye drops or ointments to fight and cure the infection. Allergic pink eye symptoms can range from mild to severe. Your eye-care expert may simply recommend cold compresses and eye drops and allow the infection to take its course, or, if the infection proves more stubborn, prescribe antihistamine medication.


The first step in prevention is practicing good hygiene habits and avoid contracting pink eye. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly and try to avoid touching your eyes or mouth. Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and do not touch or rub your eyes with your hands. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve arm to stop the germs from contaminating your hands. Regularly disinfect surfaces such as countertops, bathroom tops and sinks, and door handles with a non-toxic antibacterial cleaner. Don’t share towels, washcloths, contact lenses, or makeup; and avoid swimming pools to prevent irritation to the eyes from the chlorine and the spread of the infection to others.

Anyone can contract pink eye, but those who spend the day in close proximity to others, like school children are especially at risk. If your child contracts viral or bacterial pink eye, it is important that the infection is cured before he or she returns to school; returning before the infection has cleared risks spreading it to other children.

Regular checks can help prevent your child from contracting pink eye and implement fast-acting treatments to sooth pain and discomfort in the event pink eye is contracted. At iSight Optometry we pride ourselves on being not only genuinely kid-friendly, but enthusiastically so. We have been a trusted family-friendly eye care clinic for over 60 years and are the most technologically advanced optometrist in Kelowna. We use advanced techniques to provide comprehensive testing, diagnosis, and treatment options for all of your eye-care needs.


Call us today or drop by our office and see the difference we provide.