Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctivae of the eye (the moist mucous membrane inside the the eyelids. There are a number of causes:

  • infection
    • bacterial - contagious; gets promptly better with antibiotic drops; especially likely if associated with a green snotty nose
    • viral - contagious; doesn't get better with drops per se but will get better anyway; this can be the bad one that may last up to a couple of weeks and the child must be isolated from school during that time
    • chlamydial - often in newborns, acquired by passage through the birth canal; can be associated with pnemonia in very young infants
  • chemical - most often a pool chemical reaction
  • allergic - itchy, watery eyes with distinctively pale, pebbly-appearing inner eyelids; nonsteroidal allergy drops are available and work well

The vast majority of cases of conjunctivitis with discharge in children can be treated the same way: give 'em some eyedrops, and they get better. Sometimes we culture the eye to get the name of the bug causing the infection, but generally only if something is unusual about the case. The expression "pink eye" is confusing. Most folks mean an eye that is pink and weepy; more precisely, "pink eye" refers to, as above, a specific type of viral conjunctivitis.

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