Conjunctivitis

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, also known as "pink eye," is an inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye. The conjunctiva consists of the membrane that lines the inside of the eye and also a thin membrane that covers the actual eye. There are many causes of pink eye, including the following:

  • Allergies
  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Herpes

In this section, only allergic conjunctivitis will be addressed.

What are the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis?

The following are the most common symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery discharge
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Stringy discharge from the eyes

The symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is allergic conjunctivitis diagnosed?

Cultures of eye drainage are usually not done for allergic conjunctivitis. A diagnosis of conjunctivitis is usually made based on a complete medical history and physical examination.

What are treatments for allergic conjunctivitis?

There is no cure for allergic conjunctivitis. Avoidance of the irritant is the best management. Cold compresses to your child's eyes may also help with the itching and swelling.

Specific treatment for allergic conjunctivitis will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the reaction
  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the reaction
  • Your opinion or preference

Your child's physician may prescribe the following medications to help with the symptoms:

  • Antihistamines. These help to decrease histamine release, which may help to decrease itching and watering. Some examples are diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) or hydroxyzine (Atarax®). These medications may make your child drowsy.
  • Nonsedating antihistamines.  These work similarly to antihistamines but without the side effect of making your child drowsy. These might include cetirizine (Zyrtec®) or loratadine (Claritin®).
  • Eye drops. These help to relieve the itching and redness.


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