Conjunctivitis in Children – Causes, Symptoms, Types and Treatment


Conjunctivitis, also referred as pinkeye, is usually the inflammation of the conjunctiva. The condition can be alarming as it causes redness in eyes and spreads quite fast. However, it does not cause any damage to the vision.

Conjunctivitis in Children – Causes

The most common causes of conjunctivitis in children are:

  • Infection from bacteria
  • Infection form virus
  • Irritants like dirt, shampoo, smoke, and pool chlorine
  • Allergies, such as pollen, dust, or other specific allergies

Conjunctivitis in Children – Symptoms

Generally, the symptoms of conjunctivitis in children vary in children from what are noticed in adults. However, some of the most common symptoms of conjunctivitis in children include:

  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Redness in the white of the eye or the inner eyelid
  • White or green discharge from the eye
  • Thick yellow discharge that accumulates over the eyelashes, especially after sleep
  • Itchy Nose and Sneezing
  • Burning eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Blurred vision

Conjunctivitis in Children – Types

The condition of conjunctivitis is usually termed into either childhood conjunctivitis or newborn conjunctivitis.

The main types of newborn conjunctivitis are:

  • Gonococci Conjunctivitis

This type of conjunctivitis occurs because of bacteria called N. gonorrhea. It can occur in a newborn baby during normal delivery from an infected mother. It can be prevented with the use of eye drops in newborn at the time of birth. 

  • Chemical Conjunctivitis

This condition is quite rare and caused by irritation from eye drops given to babies to prevent bacterial infections. This type of conjunctivitis generally doesn’t require any special treatment.

  • Inclusion Conjunctivitis

This type of conjunctivitis is caused by an infection with Chlamydia trachomatis. The symptoms include swollen eyelids, red eyes, and fluid leakage from eyelids. Usual treatment includes oral antibiotics.

  • Infections from other Bacteria

After the first week of birth, other bacteria may cause conjunctivitis in newborn babies. In such type of conjunctivitis, the eyes may get red and swollen with little drainage. Treatment depends upon the bacteria type responsible for infection.

Childhood Conjunctivitis, on the other hand, is a condition characterized by swelling of the conjunctiva. It may also include an infection. Usually, large outbreaks of conjunctivitis are seen in schools or daycare settings, caused due to infection from an affected child.

Conjunctivitis in Children – Treatment

The treatment of conjunctivitis varies with the cause of the problem. Depending upon the cause, the different treatments for conjunctivitis among children include:

  • Virus

Just like common cold must run its course, same is the case with conjunctivitis caused by viruses. This type of conjunctivitis usually lasts for 5-7 days and can be highly contagious. Therefore, ask your child to avoid contact with others and get his/her hands washed frequently, especially before handling food that is eaten with hands. If your child complains about blurred vision during conjunctivitis, it is recommended to see a doctor immediately as it may indicate scarring of the cornea.

  • Bacteria

Conjunctivitis caused by bacteria, like ones related to STDs, is usually treated with antibiotics. These antibiotics can be in the form of ointments, eye drops, or pills. Pills may be required to be taken for several days. Ointments or eye drops are applied to the inner side of eyelid, three to four times a day for a week.

  • Allergies

Conjunctivitis caused from allergies should subside once the allergen is removed and the allergy is treated. Antihistamines (either drops or oral) can relieve the condition. Consult a doctor if your child has conjunctivitis associated with an allergy.

  • Irritants

For conjunctivitis caused by irritants like chemicals and pollutants, it is advised to wash the substance off from the eyes for about five minutes. After this, the eyes should start to improve within three to four hours. However, if the problem is causedby alkaline material or acid, like bleach, rinse it off immediately with lots of water and consult the doctor at the earliest.

In addition to the aforesaid treatment options depending upon the cause of the problem, it is strongly recommended to maintain high cleanliness standards. Ask your child to wash his/her eyes many times a day using a cotton ball soaked in lukewarm water. Also, make sure to keep a separate towel for your child.

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