Back to school: how to recognize pink eye

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Summer break is coming to an end signaling the start of another school year. Your child will soon be immersed into the classroom sharing ideas, books, each other’s lunches and much more. One of the things that you definitely do not want your child to catch or to pass on to others is pink eye. Yes, pink eye!

What is pink eye, you might ask?

Pink eye is a highly contagious, viral infection that usually follows an upper respiratory infection. It can be spread by through direct contact with an infected individual. Similar to the flu, antibacterial medications are typically ineffective against a virus. Therefore, it typically takes a good two to three weeks for your body and eye to fight off the infection.

So how would your child feel if he or she were to develop a pink eye?

First and foremost, your child will complain about watering and irritation in one eye. He or she may experience a gritty, foreign-body like sensation. Some may feel feverish as well. One of the golden rules is that pink eye always starts in one eye and then goes on to involve the other eye.

So how do you tell if it’s pink eye?

One of the troubling things to an undiscriminating parent is how to distinguish a pink eye from a red eye due to a bacterial infection or allergies. Because these conditions can look quite similar, it is best to take your child to an optometrist for a definitive diagnosis. Better yet, keep your child healthy by eating right, getting adequate rest and washing or sanitizing his or her hands often.

~ Judy Tong, O.D., F.A.A.O.
California Optometric Association



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