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Treatment for Pinkeye in a Toddler

By Melissa McNamara ; Updated June 13, 2017

Pinkeye, also known as conjunctivitis, is the inflammation of the membrane that lines the eyelid and part of the eyeball. Although not a serious problem, it is contagious and if your toddler becomes infected, he will need taken out of daycare or other activities for a few weeks.


The most obvious symptom of pinkeye is bright pink bloodshot eyes. The eyes may water excessively, itch and be sensitive to light. In addition, your child may feel like something is in her eyes as they will feel gritty. While sleeping, crust will often form on the eyelids.

According to, pink eye can be viral or bacterial. A viral infection will often have watery discharge and a bacterial infection will have a yellow-green discharge of a thicker consistency.

Unlike many infectious illnesses, pink eye is not seasonal and can happen any time of the year, according to the book "What to Expect the Toddler Years."


If you suspect your toddler has pink eye, contact your doctor as soon as possible. If pinkeye is confirmed as a bacterial infection, your doctor will begin treatment with an antibacterial ointment. According to, doctors prescribe ointment for toddlers because it’s easier to apply than drops; however, your toddler may experience blurred vision for up to 20 minutes after the application. Continue the medication for the full duration prescribed regardless of the disappearance of symptoms.

A viral infection will need to run its course and normally takes two to three weeks to disappear.


To relieve your child’s symptoms, “What to Expect the Toddler Years” suggests applying a warm wash cloth to your child’s eyes. Wet a wash cloth in warm water and compress the washcloth to your child’s eyes for five to 10 minutes every three hours.

Smoke can irritate the eyes, so do not smoke or allow anyone to smoke around your toddler.


According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, hand washing is the best prevention against pink eye, so ensure that your toddler and family members are washing their hands often.

If your toddler has pinkeye, wash and change the bedding frequently. Also make sure clothing and towels are washed daily. Do not share towels or wash clothes with someone infected with pinkeye.

Also, do not allow your toddler to play with someone who has pinkeye.


Once your doctor begins treatment, you should start seeing improvement within a few days. If things are not improving or your toddler’s eyes seem worse, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

If your toddler has symptoms for pinkeye, it’s possible the redness is being caused by allergies, an irritant or a foreign object in the eye. Always make a doctor’s appointment to confirm what is causing the redness. If you suspect your child has a foreign object in his eye and your doctor is not available, bring your child to the emergency room.

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