Treatment for Pinkeye

Treatment for conjunctivitis depends on the type. Viral conjunctivitis does not require treatment. This type goes away on its own, usually within 7–10 days. Apply cool compresses to the child's eyes and ask his or her physician about using artificial tears to relieve the crustiness and ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve discomfort.

If your child has pinkeye caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotic eye drops or ointment may be prescribed. In most cases, this treatment clears up the infection within several days.

Treatment for allergic conjunctivitis involves treating the underlying allergy. If symptoms are severe, your child's physician may prescribe antihistamines, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs; e.g., ibuprofen) or a topical steroid to reduce inflammation.

Follow Up Care for Conjunctivitis

Parents and caregivers should check in with the child's doctor after 2 or 3 days to make sure the infection is improving as expected. Children should not return to school or daycare until they have been treated for at least 24 hours, or until they have been cleared by their physician.

Pinkeye Prevention

The following precautions can help prevent conjunctivitis caused by infection and reduce the risk for spreading pink eye:

  • Avoid re-using contaminated towels or handkerchiefs; throw away tissues after use
  • Clean contact lenses properly; do not leave in for extended periods
  • Replace eye cosmetics regularly and do not share products
  • Teach children to keep their hands away from their eyes and to wash their hands frequently
  • Wash sheets and pillowcases every day when the child has viral or bacterial conjunctivitis

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 08 Sep 2015