Pink Eye is Back in School—And Here's How To Stop It

The same, irritating rhinovirus behind the common cold is often responsible.

The school year is back in full swing, as are students illnesses, including pink eye, a.k.a. conjunctivitis.

You know the feeling—an uncontrollable urge to scratch your eyes, tearing, maybe extra "crusties" that form on your eyelids overnight. It's real unpleasant, and it can be highly contagious, especially among kids. In fact, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 3 million school days are missed each year in U.S public schools due to the spread of pink eye.

In medical terms, conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the thin, filmy membrane that covers the inside of the eyelids and white part of the eye, called the sclera. It can be caused by viral infections, bacterial infections and allergic reactions. When it comes to school kids, the Academy said in a message emailed to reporters Tuesday, the same, irritating rhinovirus responsible for the common cold is often behind the infection. Of course, this also means that it's super-easy to transmit, as young hands wipe away runny noses or eye secretions, then touch other young hands, which then touch young eyes.

To prevent spreading or catching pink eye, the American Academy of Ophthalmology offers these tips:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Do not touch your eyes
  • Do not reuse handkerchiefs or towels when wiping your face and eyes
  • Change pillowcases frequently
  • Do not use old cosmetics or share makeup
  • Maintain proper contact lens care and cleaning 

If you or your child has viral or bacterial pink eye, ease the discomfort by applying a warm compress to closed eyelids. Then, wash your hands thoroughly. Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis last up to two weeks and disappear on their own. For bacterial conjunctivitis, an ophthalmologist (Eye M.D) may prescribe antibiotic eye drops. If symptoms persist, take your child to an ophthalmologist to ensure they get proper treatment.

For more information about pink eye and other children’s eye health information, visit www.geteyesmart.org.


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