What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is a common eye infection. It is an inflammation causing swelling and redness of the conjunctiva (thin covering of the white part of the eye an inner part of eyelids).

 Red eye due to conjunctivitis

Red eye due to conjunctivitis

What are the causes of conjunctivitis?

 Conjunctivitis can be caused by an infection or an allergy. Infectious conjunctivitis is contagious and can be caused by either a viral or bacterial infection. Allergic conjunctivitis may be caused due to allergu to an environmental agent such as pollen, dust or a cosmetic product etc.


How does infectious conjunctivitis spread?

It can spread through direct contact (handshake) or indirectly through fomites i.e. it can spread through contact with objects and surfaces which have been touched by an infected person’s discharge/tears. These could be towels, pillows, pens etc. It does not spread through looking into the eyes of a person with conjunctivitis. Contact precautions and hand hygiene by the child and parent are needed to avoid spread to other persons.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and does not spread.


How does conjunctivitis present?

It presents as redness or pink appearance of the eyes, swelling of the eyelids, discharge and watering from the eyes and irritation and light sensitivity. Symptoms usually develop within 24 to 72 hours of becoming infected and last from two days to three weeks. In bacterial conjunctivitis, both eyes are almost always infected and a gritty sensation with yellowish discharge is observed. In viral conjunctivitis, one or both eyes may be involved and redness, itching and excessive tearing (sometimes pink) occurs. Vision may be blurred in either case. Occasionally, the eyes may appear puffy. Allergic conjunctivitis may present with itching in the eyes and sticky mucoid discharge.


What is the treatment of Conjucntivitis in children?

For viral conjunctivitis, there is no specific treatment and symptoms are reduced through use of certain eyedrops and frequent cleaning of the outside of the eyes. Sometimes avoidance of bright light is helpful. For bacterial conjunctivitis, antibiotic ointment or drops are needed along with other lubricating and anti-inflammatory eyedrops. Allergic conjunctivitis is treated with antiallergic and lubricating eyedrops, cold compresses and avoidance of dusty environments.