That depends. Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or even allergies. If you notice redness, itching, discharge, and crusty eyes in the morning, take him to the doctor. If she thinks it's bacterial (which tends to produce a yellower, stickier discharge), she may prescribe antibiotic drops and your child can return to child care after 24 hours, says Cheryl L. Hausman, M.D., a pediatrician at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. But there's no treatment for the more common viral form. It remains contagious until it's gone, so your child won't be able to go back to his child-care center for at least three days and maybe a week. In the meantime, wipe away discharge with a warm washcloth, use cool compresses during the day to help soothe the eye and don't share towels or pillowcases.
Originally published in the September 2008 issue of Parents magazine.
All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.