Pinkeye From Bacteria in Teens: Care Instructions

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Picture of a healthy eye and an eye with pinkeye


Pinkeye is a problem that many teens get. In pinkeye, the lining of your eyelid and the eye surface become red and swollen. The lining is called the conjunctiva (say "kawn-junk-TY-vuh"). Pinkeye is also called conjunctivitis (say "kun-JUNK-tih-VY-tus").

Pinkeye can be caused by bacteria, a virus, or an allergy.

Your pinkeye is caused by bacteria. This type of pinkeye can spread quickly from person to person, usually from touching.

Pinkeye from bacteria usually clears up 2 to 3 days after you start treatment with antibiotic eyedrops or ointment.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Use antibiotics as directed

If the doctor gave you antibiotic medicine, such as an ointment or eyedrops, use it as directed. Do not stop using it just because your eyes start to look better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics. Keep the bottle tip clean.

To put in eyedrops or ointment:

  • Tilt your head back and pull your lower eyelid down with one finger.
  • Drop or squirt the medicine inside the lower lid.
  • Close your eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the drops or ointment move around.
  • Do not touch the tip of the bottle or tube to your eye, eyelid, eyelashes, or any other surface.

Make yourself comfortable

  • Use moist cotton or a clean, wet cloth to remove the crust from your eyes. Wipe from the inside corner of your eye to the outside. Use a clean part of the cloth for each wipe.
  • Close your eyes and put cold or warm wet cloths on them a few times a day if your eyes hurt or are itching.
  • Do not wear contact lenses until your pinkeye is gone. Clean the contacts and storage case.
  • If you wear disposable contacts, get out a new pair when your eyes have cleared and it is safe to wear contacts again.

Prevent pinkeye from spreading

  • Wash your hands often. Always wash them before and after you treat pinkeye or touch your eyes or face.
  • Don't share towels, pillows, or washcloths while you have pinkeye. Use clean linens, towels, and washcloths each day.
  • Do not share your contact lens equipment, containers, or solutions.
  • Do not share your eye medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain in your eye, not just irritation on the surface.
  • You have a change in vision or a loss of vision.
  • Your eye gets worse or is not better within 48 hours after you started antibiotics.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.