What Are Pink Eye Symptoms in Toddlers?
Has your toddler developed a pink, itchy, watery, and/or crusty eye? We hate to say it, but the most likely cause is pink eye, also called conjunctivitis. Pink eye is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that lines the inside of the eyelid and whites of the eye. The inflammation causes the blood vessels to become larger, making the eye appear pink.
While it is highly contagious, pink eye is usually mild and easy to treat. It is one of the most common eye problems your toddler can get, so it’s best to be prepared. The specialists at Pediatric Partners have put together some basic information on the symptoms, treatment, and prevention of this condition.
Pink eye has easily recognizable symptoms, but they can vary depending on the cause (viruses, bacteria, or allergies). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms usually include the following:
- Pink or red color in the white of the eye(s)
- Itchy, irritated, and/or burning eye(s)
- Crusting of eyelids or lashes, especially in the morning
- White, yellow, or green eye discharge
- Increased tear production
With viral pink eye, the discharge is typically clear and watery, whereas bacterial pink eye is associated with a thick white, yellow, or green discharge. Here’s a helpful tip: if your toddler wakes up with his or her eyes sealed shut by a crusty discharge, it is likely bacterial. Pink eye can also be caused by allergies and is often accompanied by watery eyes, sneezing, and a runny nose. Allergic pink eye is not contagious, and the symptoms will go away when the allergen source is removed.
How It’s Spread
We mentioned that pink eye is highly contagious, now let’s discuss how your toddler can get it. Viral and bacterial pink eye are spread through contact with an infected person’s eye fluid or mucus from sneezing or a runny nose. Coming into contact with an infected person’s towel, pillowcase, toys, etc. can spread it indirectly. Unfortunately, this means extra disinfecting and laundry!
Toddlers and young children are especially susceptible to getting and spreading pink eye because they tend to rub their eyes often without washing their hands first.
Keep in mind that schools and daycares often have strict quarantine periods to avoid the spread of pink eye, so make sure you are familiar with their policies.
Determining how long pink eye is contagious is a bit tricky depending on the cause, so it’s important to see your pediatrician to properly diagnose and treat it. Viral pink eye will go away on its own after the virus has run its course, usually in 7-14 days. Bacterial pink eye must be treated with antibiotic eye drops or topical ointment and will often clear within several days.
Are you wondering how you’re going to wrangle your toddler to apply the eye drops? Our best tip is to have your child lie down and close his or her eyes. Put a drop of the medicine in the corner of the eye and have your child blink a few times. The drops should enter the eye.
To soothe irritation or remove discharge, apply a warm or cool compress on your child’s eyes and wipe gently from the inside to the outside. Make sure to use a different washcloth for both eyes to avoid spreading the infection.
Constant hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of pink eye. Remind your child not to touch his or her eyes, and make sure to wash clothing, linens, and toys that have come in contact with eye fluids in hot water every day until the infection is gone.
If you suspect your toddler has pink eye, call Pediatric Partners at 863.940.0918 or schedule an appointment online.