Pink eye diagnosis?

Q: How can we tell if our 1-year-old daughter has pink eye?

A: This is a common and challenging situation for parents of toddlers and preschoolers. Typically anytime a child has a redder than normal eye — or if there’s any drainage from the eye — he or she is thought to have a contagious form of pink eye (conjunctivitis). 

The expectation is that before a child can continue to attend daycare he or she must be started on an antibiotic eye drop — or have a significant change in symptoms. 

Depending on the rules for your daycare, once a child is on a prescription eye treatment he or she can often return to daycare within a day or two. These recommendations can help prevent the spread of some forms of pink eye.

However, many young children with such symptoms don’t really have bacterial eye infections, but viral infections, which won’t be affected by antibiotic eye drops. A viral infection must go away on its own.

Viral conjunctivitis is more common than bacterial conjunctivitis, but it’s not easy to differentiate the two. 

And sometimes allergies or a blocked tear duct can cause similar symptoms.

Talk to your child’s clinician if pink eye is a persistent problem. There may be some alternative treatments to try.