by Winona Health Pediatrician Sarah Lallaman, DO
Parents understandably have a questions and concerns when their little ones (or even bigger ones) have a case of pink eye. It is helpful to think of pink eye like the common cold and it can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or even allergies. Infective causes of pink eye may be passed on to other children but usually resolve without treatment. The best method to prevent spread is good hand hygiene. It can be a messy nuisance, but using antibiotics when not needed can lead to a bigger problem long-term.
Based on research, guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and support from multiple other organizations, most cases of pink eye should not be treated with antibiotics. Fortunately, in Minnesota, most of the schools have recently accepted this as accepted practice, and fewer schools or daycares are unnecessarily excluding children from the daycare or school setting based on eye symptoms alone.
Given AAP’s research-based recommendations, we generally do not prescribe antibiotics for pink eye in most cases. Instead, we recommend that pink eye be treated like a symptom of a cold virus. A child with pink eye should be allowed in school unless:
• The child is unable to participate in usual activities, or staff determine that they cannot care for the child without compromising their ability to care for the health of the other children
• The child meets other criteria that would keep them out of school or daycare, such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.
• There is a specific recommendation by the health department or the child’s health care professional
As is the case with most any health care concern, there are certainly exceptions to the rule, and it is still more than reasonable to be evaluated for eye redness, pain, discharge, and symptoms that do not resolve as one would expect. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s health, please give us a call at 507-457-7607.