What is allergic conjunctivitis?

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Allergic conjunctivitis in children: Overview

Allergic conjunctivitis (say "kun-JUNK-tih-VY-tus") is an eye problem that many children get. It is often called pinkeye. In pinkeye, the lining of the eyelid and the eye surface become red and swollen. The lining is called the conjunctiva (say "kawn-junk-TY-vuh").

Pinkeye can be caused by bacteria, a virus, or an allergy.

Your child's pinkeye is caused by an allergy. A substance (allergen) triggers a reaction that results in the symptoms. This type of pinkeye cannot be spread from person to person. Your child may have other symptoms of an allergy, such as a runny nose.

Allergic pinkeye goes away when you keep your child away from the allergen that triggers the pinkeye. Triggers include pollen, mold, and animal skin cells (dander). But because it is not always possible to stay away from triggers, your doctor may suggest eyedrops to treat the symptoms. Antibiotics do not help with allergies.

Teens: How can you care for yourself when you have allergic conjunctivitis?

Use medicines as directed

  • Take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • If the doctor gave you eyedrops, use them as directed. Keep the bottle tip clean. To put in eyedrops:
    • Tilt your head back, and pull your lower eyelid down with one finger.
    • Drop or squirt the medicine inside the lower lid.
    • Close your eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the drops move around.
    • Do not touch the tip of the bottle to your eyelashes or any other surface.

Make yourself comfortable

  • Use moist cotton or a clean, wet cloth to remove the crust from your eyes. Wipe from the inside corner of the eye to the outside. Use a clean part of the cloth for each wipe.
  • Close your eyes and put cold or warm wet cloths on them a few times a day if your eyes hurt or are itching.
  • Do not wear contact lenses until the pinkeye is gone. Clean the contacts and storage case.
  • If you wear disposable contacts, get out a new pair when your eyes have cleared and it is safe to wear contacts again.

Avoid triggers

  • Try to find what triggers the pinkeye. Then take steps to avoid it. For example:
    • Control animal dander and other pet allergens by keeping pets only in certain areas of your home.
    • Avoid outdoor pollens by staying inside while pollen counts are high.
    • Control indoor mold by cleaning bathtubs and showers monthly.

Allergic conjunctivitis in teens: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain in an eye, not just irritation on the surface.
  • You have a change in vision or a loss of vision.
  • Pinkeye lasts longer than 7 days.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.