Conjunctivitis In Children: How To Intervene?

Conjunctivitis can have several causes: bacteria, viruses, allergic reactions or the entry of foreign bodies into the eye. In the presence of any symptom of eye discomfort in the child, it is essential to contact the pediatrician.
Conjunctivitis in children: how to intervene?

Conjunctivitis in children and adults is inflammation of the conjunctiva, a clear membrane that lines the eye.

This disorder causes itchy and red eyes, but according to the United States National Library of Medicine, it does not usually affect vision.

Contrary to what one might think, conjunctivitis can be caused by many factors. Not only, therefore, to bacterial infections, but also of a viral nature, to allergic reactions, trauma, the use of contact lenses and even insomnia.

In the case of children, particular attention must be paid to how this pathology is treated. Several pediatric associations assure that conjunctivitis is one of the most common pathologies in childhood. So, don’t worry: we explain how to deal with it.

What is conjunctivitis?

As we said, conjunctivitis indicates the inflammation of the membrane known as the ocular conjunctiva. According to sources experienced in ophthalmology (such as Pro visu), it typically affects both eyes, but can affect asymmetrically.

Scientific studies show that it is the most common eye disease among children between the ages of one and nine. Of all pediatric visits for eye disorders, nearly 41% involve cases of conjunctivitis, while the remaining percentage is associated with injury.

Little girl with burning eye.
Conjunctivitis in children is common, but the origin is not just bacterial.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis in children

Having made the necessary premises on the nature of this disease and its incidence in children, it is time to understand how to recognize it. Pediatric sources, such as Kidshealth , present a list of the various symptoms typical of the pediatric age :

  • Redness of the eyes.
  • Sensation of discomfort in the eye: the child may claim to perceive “grains of sand”.
  • Ocular discharge.
  • Pain and inflammation of the conjunctiva.
  • In some children, inflammation of the eyelids and photophobia (direct light causes discomfort) may occur .

Causes of conjunctivitis in children

As already mentioned, the causes of conjunctivitis cannot be considered exclusively of an infectious nature. Sources already mentioned, in addition to the National Eye Institute (NEI), have investigated the different triggers of an inflammation of the conjunctiva.

Bacterial conjunctivitis: the most common types

In children , bacterial infection is the most common cause of conjunctivitis (up to 78% of cases) unlike the adult population, for which in 36% of cases the infection is of a viral nature, while in 40% it is bacterial.

The microorganisms that usually cause this pathology are the same responsible for respiratory diseases and are found in the skin: Staphylococcus aureus , Streptococcus pneumoniae , Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis .


We are faced with a much less common trigger agent among children, as viruses are responsible for about 13% of childhood conjunctivitis cases. According to the available data, adenoviruses (ADV) are responsible for about 50% of cases of viral conjunctivitis in children.

Other causes of conjunctivitis in children

Still, it’s not all about viruses or bacteria. We present other possible causes that still remain to be explored:

  • Allergies : correspond to 2% of cases of conjunctivitis in children. They are seasonal and are usually accompanied by sinusitis.
  • From foreign bodies : with entry of external agents into the eyes or from the use of contact lenses.
  • Fungal infections.
  • Amoeba infections.
  • Contamination : internal or external, due to pollution or chemical agents.
  • From trauma : due to bumps or scratches of the eyes.

Children are much less likely to develop these types of conjunctivitis. There are seldom situations in which a child is exposed to toxic chemicals or uses contact lenses for a period of time that favors the development of this disorder.

Simple preventive measures to be taken at home

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conjunctivitis of a viral and bacterial nature is highly contagious. Following this, it becomes essential to put some preventive measures into practice. These include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, especially after coming into contact with the baby.
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes. Teach the child not to do this in order to avoid contagion and a worsening of the clinical picture.
  • Wash pillow cases, sheets, towels and other items used by the baby more frequently.
  • Avoid using infected baby items.
Child with eye discomfort.
Eye drops therapy must be prescribed by a doctor.

When to see a doctor?

As the aforementioned pediatric organizations indicate, some serious eye diseases share some symptoms with conjunctivitis. Although the latter does not represent a serious disorder, if the child complains of eye discomfort, a pediatric visit is a must. 

Viral conjunctivitis usually heals on its own within a few days. On the other hand, those of the bacterial type require the administration of an antibiotic in the form of drops or ointment.

Avoid medicating the child with conjunctivitis on your own

Acting as a doctor in your own home is not advisable. For example, it is useless to treat a form of viral conjunctivitis with antibiotics, indeed it can even worsen the condition of the child.

In the face of any annoyance in the eyes of your children, contacting the pediatrician is a logical and responsible act. Not all eye disorders can be traced back to conjunctivitis, so it is important to receive an accurate diagnosis in a short time.

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