When the white of the eye becomes pink or red, it’s called ‘pink eye.’ Conjunctivitis is the medical name for ‘pink eye.’ The conjunctiva is the membrane that covers the white part of the eye. It becomes pink when it is infected or irritated. Conjunctivitis can be caused by several different or a combination of different things: a virus, a bacteria, or even allergies. Sometimes it can be challenging to tell the difference between these different causes!

Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis are:

  • The eye looks irritated
  • Red or pink color of the white of the eye
  • May have increased tears (a watery eye)
  • Eyelid may be puffy (mildly swollen)
  • No pus or yellow discharge
  • Other signs of a cold (such as runny nose or sore throat) may also be present

Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis are:

  • Itching, redness, tearing, and swelling of the eyelid
  • Usually some contact with a known environmental allergen such as animal dander, or presence of milder more persistent symptoms during a particular pollen season
  • Other seasonal allergy symptoms like clear runny nose, itchy nose, and sneezing
  • No pus or yellow discharge

Symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis are:

  • Yellow or green discharge or pus in the eye
  • Dried pus on the eyelids and eyelashes
  • The eyelids are stuck (matted) together after sleep
  • After being wiped away, the pus comes back during the day
  • The white parts of the eye may or may not be red or pink
  • The eyelids are often puffy (mildly swollen)

Sometimes conjunctivitis that begins as viral or allergic, can develop a secondary bacterial infection requiring antibiotic drops. Good hand washing, cleaning the eye with warm water and a cotton ball, and avoiding rubbing eyes, if possible, is a good way to help prevent this. Viral or allergic conjunctivitis does not need antibiotic drops and treating with antibiotics will not shorten the duration of the symptoms.

A small amount of pus in only the corner of the eye is likely not concerning and is due to an irritant or virus.  Larger amounts of pus, or thick discharge from eyes, likely needs treatment with antibiotic drops.

Often, in babies and small children, bacterial conjunctivitis can be associated with a concurrent bacterial ear infection. Symptoms of ear infection to watch for could include fever, fussiness (especially when laying child on back due to increased pressure in the eustachian tubes), prolonged cold symptoms such as congestion and runny nose, and night waking.

Other reasons to call the office are:

  • Pus in eye lasting longer than 3 days with treatment
  • Redness lasting longer than 7 days
  • Eyelid becomes red or swollen
  • Eye pain, or difficulty moving the eye
  • Your child becomes worse or you think your child needs to be seen


PAA Advance Practice Providers
Our PAA APP’s include: Amber Mercer, Annie Croft, Bridget Shen, Brooke Gonzalez, Caitlin Whiteman, Courtney Dudley, Emily Woodard, Emma McCarty, Erin Moore, Keena Chung, Lauren Karnesky, and Pam Dietrich