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Pink Eye From a Virus in Children: Care Instructions

Picture of a healthy eye and an eye with pink eye


Pink eye is a problem that many children get. In pink eye, the lining of the eyelid and the eye surface become red and swollen. The lining is called the conjunctiva (say "kawn-junk-TY-vuh"). Pink eye is also called conjunctivitis (say "kun-JUNK-tih-VY-tus").

Pink eye can be caused by bacteria, a virus, or an allergy.

Your child's pink eye is caused by a virus. This type of pink eye can spread quickly from person to person, usually from touching.

Pink eye caused by a virus usually gets better on its own in 7 to 10 days. But it can last longer. Antibiotics do not help this type of pink eye.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

Make your child comfortable

  • Use moist cotton or a clean, wet cloth to remove the crust from your child's eyes. Wipe from the inside corner of the eye to the outside. Use a clean part of the cloth for each wipe.
  • Put cold or warm wet cloths on your child's eyes a few times a day if the eyes hurt or are itching.
  • Do not have your child wear contact lenses until the pink eye is gone. Clean the contacts and storage case.
  • If your child wears disposable contacts, get out a new pair when the eyes have cleared and it is safe to wear contacts again.

Prevent pink eye from spreading

  • Wash your hands and your child's hands often. Always wash them before and after you treat pink eye or touch your child's eyes or face.
  • Do not have your child share towels, pillows, or face cloths while your child has pink eye. Use clean linens, towels, and face cloths each day.
  • Do not share contact lens equipment, containers, or solutions.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has pain in an eye, not just irritation on the surface.
  • Your child has a change in vision or a loss of vision.
  • Pink eye lasts longer than 7 days.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.