Secrets to Treating Pink Eye


Pink eye tends to LOVE my kids. It’s such a complete hassle that as soon as my husband and I see the slightest hint one of the kids may have it, we rush off to the pediatrician to get the drops prescribed. So how can children avoid getting pink eye? What are the symptoms and what should YOU do to avoid getting it? Plus! What’s the secret to getting in the drops? Breezy Mama turned to Dr. Shakha Gillin, Co-founder of Coast Pediatrics Del Mar , for those answers and more.

What are the symptoms of pink eye?

“Pink eye” refers to conjunctivitis. It is a contagious infection of the eye.

Although we often treat pink eye as a bacterial infection, the majority are actually viral and will self resolve. There are also other causes, such as allergic and irritant conjunctivitis.

Even though I find it fairly easy to treat, and not that harming to a child, or family (hey, no one is throwing up, right?), it is one of those things that seems to make everyone squirmy.

As soon as a child wakes up with goop in there eyes, is it safe to assume that’s pink eye?

No, first of all, “pink eye” refers to the white of the eye being red AND drainage. If a child has both, then we usually treat with antibiotic drops. If the white of the eye is red, but no drainage, then it is likely viral, allergic, or a chemical irritant and does not need antibiotics. If there is drainage, but not red, then it could be drainage coming from the nose, up the tear duct. This can just be wiped off (use a wet wash cloth to wipe off any goop).

How do children get pink eye?

By doing what kids do best- putting their hands all over everything, and the touching their eyes.
Some of the routine vaccines cover some of the bacterias that cause bacterial conjunctivitis. Not all, but some of them.

Since it’s so contagious, can they “catch it” again while being treated with drops?

No. If they are not better in 3 days, we assume it is something else. If it is not better in 3 days, you should definately go back to your doctor. Often, it was just a case of viral conjunctivitis, but you want to make sure.

I’ve heard a few wives tales – that dabbing Neosporin on the outer eye can clear it up and breast milk – are either true?

I do not use Neosporin. There are mixed reports on breast milk in the eye, but I personally like the idea of using breast milk. It makes sense to me- with all the IgA in breastmilk. But still remember to come into the doctor if not better.

Why is pink eye so contagious?

Because some of the bacteria and viruses can live on surfaces. And people touch things, and their faces too much. And kids cannot help it.

Generally the treatment is prescription drops, one drop three times a day. After the first set of drops after the first 24 hours, it’s no longer contagious, right?

We pretty much assume after 24 hours of treatment it is no longer contagious. Kids can return to school after 24 hours. However, use your common sense. If there is a child with a raging red eye, and goop all over the place near you, you may want to wash your hands, or stay away.

How long can the virus live on clothes, stuffed animals, etc.?

It depends, there are so many different causes. I usually assume most germs are killed by 24 hours.

Obviously EVERYTHING (blankets, pillows, toys, stuffed animals, books, clothing, etc.) should be washed to prevent other family members from catching it and again after the 24 hours of treatment. But does everything need to be washed after that?

No, I think that is plenty.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Yes, a pink eye can be associated with an ear infection. So if your child seems fussy, has a fever, or a bad cold, you should bring them to their doctor to be evaluated. They may have an ear infection.

Also, drops can be so intimidating. I always have my kids lay down, and close their eyes. I have the parent place a drop of the antibiotic into the corner of the eye (near the nose). then I have the child gently open their eyes. I have the parents tilt their heads if needed. The drops will gently slide into the eyes without scaring them.

If there are any water blisters (like cold sores), you should go to your doctor that day, it could be herpes near the eye.

About Dr. Gillin:

Co-founder of Coast Pediatrics Del Mar , Shakha Gillin, MD, FAAP, has been in North County since 1990. She attended UCSD for her undergraduate education and for medical school. She did her residency at UC Irvine, and was the chief resident at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach. She practiced pediatrics in La Jolla for 5 years and Encinitas for 5 years. She has also worked at a private practice in Newport Beach and at the Rady Children’s Hospital Emergency Department.

Dr. Shakha Gillin has a special interest in preventative care, particularly healthy and active lifestyles for children. She was recognized by San Diego Magazine as a “Top Doctor” in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. She was recognized as “Best Pediatrician” by Ranch and Coast in 2011 and 2012.

For more information and to contact Dr. Gillin, visit:

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  1. Fun times last weekend. 🙂

  2. Lol Kathy! I don’t know which is worse — the drops or the laundry 🙂 I love the tip to do the drops with the eyes closed though!

  3. What can be used to clean a pillow that cannot be washed after my 3 yr old grandson had pinkeye and slept on it ?

  4. Hi Laurie,
    Oh no – that’s a tough one! I would probably try an anti bacteria wipe to wipe it down as long as that didn’t create damage to the pillow.

  5. Thank you so much for answering . It is a brand new pillow . Is there an anti bacterial spray or what about Lysol, would that kill the germs ? It has been about 2 weeks since it has been touched … so would the germs still be live ? Thank you in advance for helping out this grandma in need 🙂 !

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