The common condition known as “pink eye” may be familiar to those working in daycares, schools, or any shared working environment. Pink eye is more formally known as viral conjunctivitis because it is caused by a family of viruses known as adenoviruses. An adenovirus spreads from skin to skin contact especially with those who are sneezing or coughing, touching objects with the virus on it, and improperly washing hands before touching the face or eyes. You can see why it’s easily spread in daycares and schools!
The major characteristics include injected blood vessels on the eye giving it a pink appearance and it is often accompanied by a watering eye. It is highly contagious and may take up to a week to two weeks to completely resolve. Children may be more likely to get pink eye as adenovirus rapidly inhabits daycares and schools, but the virus affects all ages.
Unlike a bacterial infection, viral conjunctivitis is self-limiting, meaning there are no medicated eye drops available to speed up the healing process. Lubricating artificial tears and cool compresses are the best treatment recommended by an eye doctor to provide relief for any symptoms of discomfort. Typically children should return back to school when all of their symptoms have resolved in order to prevent transmission to others.
Those with viral conjunctivitis should also avoid rubbing their eyes, sharing towels and pillowcases, cease contact lens wear, and should frequently wash hands with soap and water before handling food, coming in contact with others, or touching shared objects. It is always important to confirm any symptoms of pink eye with your eye care specialist to rule out other eye conditions and maintain healthy eyes.
Dr. Travis Zigler
Ehlers, Justis P., and Chirag P. Shah. The Wills Eye Manual: Office and Emergency Room Diagnosis and Treatment of Eye Disease.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Adenovirus. Retrieved from