When should I call my healthcare provider if I or my child has pink eye?

Call your healthcare provider or seek medical care right away if you experience:

  • An increase in sensitivity to light, especially if it’s severe.
  • Blurred vision or decrease in vision.
  • Eye pain.
  • Feeling like there is something stuck in your eye.
  • Large amount of discharge from eyes.
  • Worsening symptoms.

Herpes, one of many possible causes of pink eye, is a serious infection. If not treated, vision loss and scarring of the eye are possible.

Most cases of pink eye are not associated with worrisome effects. However, these symptoms can be a sign of a serious problem, such as an ulcer, which can result in permanent vision loss. Never hesitate to call your healthcare provider if you have any concerns. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Can pink eye (conjunctivitis) come back?

Pink eye can reoccur, especially if you have allergy-related pink eye. Every time you’re in contact with the allergen (a substance that triggers allergies), your eyes may react.

If you have bacterial or viral pink eye, you can also accidentally re-infect yourself. To avoid coming down with another case of contagious pink eye, consider the following measures:

  • Wash your bed linens, pillowcases, towels and washcloths in hot water and detergent. Change frequently.
  • Avoid wearing eye makeup until the infection goes away. Throw out old eye makeup and any makeup used just before the start of the infection.
  • Wear glasses instead of contact lenses. Clean your glasses often.
  • Throw away disposable lenses. Thoroughly clean extended wear lenses and all eyewear cases. Use only sterile contact solution. Wash your hands before inserting or removing lenses.
  • If you’ve used eye drops for an infected eye, don’t use the same eye drops in a non-infected eye.

When can I return to daycare, school or work if I have pink eye (conjunctivitis)?

You can usually go back to daycare, school or work as soon as your symptoms go away. Generally this might be as soon as 24 hours after antibiotic treatment of bacterial infection and between two days and seven days after viral infection. You or your child’s eye should be clear of yellowish discharge or any crusting on eyelashes or in the corners of the eyes. Eyes should also be cleared of the pink color. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider and facilities about when it is safe to return or for any special “return to” requirements. If your pink eye was caused by an allergy, you do not need to stay home.

What’s the difference between pink eye (conjunctivitis) and a stye?

Both pink eye and a stye share some common symptoms, including redness, sensitivity to light and crusting along the eyelids. However, these two conditions are different and have different causes.

A stye is a red, painful bump that forms either on or inside the eyelid near the edge of the eyelashes. Pink eye is an inflammation of the lining of the inside surface of the eyelid and outer coating of the eye. Pink eye doesn’t cause bumps in your eyelid or around your eye.

Styes are caused by an infection in the oil glands on your eyelid. Pink eye is caused by viruses, bacteria, allergens and other causes different than what causes styes.

Final thoughts. . .

Pink eye usually isn’t serious and the good news is it’s highly treatable and preventable. Unless your case of pink is severe, pink eye can heal on its own without treatment. Treatment of bacterial or viral pink eye, however, can shorten the amount of time you or your child will have symptoms and are contagious. While healing, you can apply a cool (or warm) compress to relieve discomfort. The best thing you can do is take the necessary steps to avoid spreading pink eye to others or getting a repeat case of it. If you have any questions or concerns, always call your healthcare provider.

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