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Discharge Instructions for Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the tissue that covers the eye and lines the inside eyelid. It leads to redness and itching in the eye. It has many causes. It is treated with self-care and medicine. An eye infection can take up to 2 weeks to clear.

Steps to Take

Self Care

To help you feel better:

  • Use a heating pad or hot water bottle—for a viral infection.
  • Use a cool pack—for allergies or if a chemical got in your eye.
  • Use a cotton ball to wipe away discharge.
  • Do not touch or rub the eye.
  • Do not wear contacts until the infection has cleared.

If your child has conjunctivitis, ask the school or daycare when the child can return.

Medications

Your doctor may advise:

  • Antibiotics—to treat a bacterial infection
  • Eye drops—for a viral infection or allergies
  • Other medicine—if the infection has other causes
  • Pain medicine

Note: Wash your hands before and after applying eye drops or ointment.

When taking medicines:

  • Take your medicine as advised. Do not change the amount or schedule.
  • Be aware of the side effects of your medicine. Tell your doctor if you have any.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medicine.
  • Do not share your prescription medicine.
  • Medicines can be harmful when mixed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one. This includes over the counter products and supplements.
  • Plan for refills.

Follow-up

Your doctor will need to check on your progress. Be sure to go to all advised appointments.

Problems to Look Out For

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Vision changes
  • New or worsening symptoms
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Signs of infection such as fever or chills

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American Optometric Association
https://www.aoa.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://www.familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Ophthalmological Society
http://www.cos-sco.ca

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
https://www.cfpc.ca

REFERENCES:

Conjunctivitis, bacterial: an overview. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Accessed April 8, 2021.

Infectious conjunctivitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/infectious-conjunctivitis. Accessed April 8, 2021.

Pinkeye (conjunctivitis). Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/eyes/Pages/PinkEye-Conjunctivitis.aspx. Accessed April 8, 2021.

Pinkeye (conjunctivitis). Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/conjunctivitis.html. Accessed April 8, 2021.

Last reviewed March 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 7/21/2021