Red Eye without Pus

Symptom Definition

  • Redness or pinkness of the white of the eye (sclera) and inner eyelids
  • May have increased tearing (watery eye)
  • No pus or other discharge
  • Main cause: viral infection (part of a cold)
  • Other common causes: allergic conjunctivitis from pollens or chemical conjunctivitis from irritants (e.g., chlorinated pool water, smoke, smog or sunscreen).

See More Appropriate Topic

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Eyelid is very red or very swollen
  • Constant tearing or blinking
  • Eye pain or blurred vision
  • Age less then 12 weeks with fever > 100.4°F (38°C) rectally
  • Age < 1 month old (newborn)
  • Only 1 eye is red and present for > 24 hours

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If

  • Red eye as part of a cold (viral conjunctivitis) and you don’t think your child needs to be seen
  • Red eye caused by mild irritant (e.g. soap, sunscreen, food) and you don’t think your child needs to be seen

Home Care Advice for Viral Eye Infections

  1. Eye Cleansing: Cleanse eyelids with warm water and a clean cotton ball at least every 1 to 2 hours while your child is awake and at home. This usually will keep a bacterial infection from occurring.
  2. Eye Drops: Neither antibiotic nor vasoconstrictor eye drops help viral eye infections.
  3. Contacts: Children with contact lenses need to switch to glasses temporarily. (Reason: to prevent damage to the cornea)
  4. Contagiousness: Pink eye with a watery discharge is harmless and mildly contagious. Children with viral conjunctivitis do not need to miss any day care or school.
  5. Expected Course: Pink eye with a cold usually lasts about 7 days.
  6. Call Your Doctor If
    • Yellow or green discharge develops
    • Redness lasts > 1 week
    • Your child becomes worse or develops any of the “Call Your Doctor” symptoms

Home Care Advice for Mild Irritants
(e.g., smoke, smog, chlorine, perfume, food, soap, sunscreen)

  1. Face Cleansing: Wash the face, then the eyelids, with a mild soap and water. This will remove any irritants.
  2. Eye Irrigation: Irrigate the eye with warm water for 5 minutes.
  3. Vasoconstrictor Eye Drops: Red eyes from irritants usually feel much better after the irritant has been washed out. If they remain uncomfortable and bloodshot, instill some long-acting vasoconstrictor eye drops (no prescription needed). Use 2 drops every 6 to 8 hours as necessary.
  4. Expected Course: After removal of the irritant, the eyes usually return to normal color in 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Prevention: Try to avoid future exposure to the irritant.
  6. Call Your Doctor If
    • Develops pus in the eye
    • Redness lasts > 7 days
    • Your child becomes worse or develops any of the “Call Your Doctor Now” symptoms