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Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is inflammation of your conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a thin tissue that covers the front of your eye and the back of your eyelids. The conjunctiva helps protect your eye and keep it moist. Conjunctivitis may be caused by bacteria, allergies, or a virus. If your conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria, it may get better on its own in about 7 days. Viral conjunctivitis can last up to 3 weeks.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have worsening eye pain.
  • The swelling in your eye gets worse, even after treatment.
  • Your vision suddenly becomes worse or you cannot see at all.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You develop a fever and ear pain.
  • You have tiny bumps or spots of blood on your eye.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Apply a cool compress. Wet a washcloth with cold water and place it on your eye. This will help decrease itching and irritation.
  • Do not wear contact lenses. They can irritate your eye. Throw away the pair you are using and ask when you can wear them again. Use a new pair of lenses when your healthcare provider says it is okay.
  • Avoid irritants. Stay away from smoke filled areas. Shield your eyes from wind and sun.
  • Flush your eye. You may need to flush your eye with saline to help decrease your symptoms. Ask for more information on how to flush your eye.


Treatment depends on what is causing your conjunctivitis. You may be given any of the following:

  • Allergy medicine helps decrease itchy, red, swollen eyes caused by allergies. It may be given as a pill, eye drops, or nasal spray.
  • Antibiotics may be needed if your conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria. This medicine may be given as a pill, eye drops, or eye ointment.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Prevent the spread of conjunctivitis:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often. Wash your hands before and after you touch your eyes. Also wash your hands before you prepare or eat food and after you use the bathroom or change a diaper.
  • Avoid allergens. Try to avoid the things that cause your allergies, such as pets, dust, or grass.
  • Avoid contact with others. Do not share towels or washcloths. Try to stay away from others as much as possible. Ask when you can return to work or school.
  • Throw away eye makeup. The bacteria that caused your conjunctivitis can stay in eye makeup. Throw away mascara and other eye makeup.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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