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Pink Eye Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lindsy Frazer

Dr. Frazer has taught several college level Science courses and has a master's degree in Human Biology and a PhD in Library and Information Science.

Have you ever had watery, itchy, pink eyes? You might have had the very common condition called pink eye. In this lesson, learn what pink eye is and what causes pink eye.

What is Pink Eye?

What color are your eyes? Green? Brown? Blue? Pink?

Definitely not pink! Pink isn't a natural eye color! So what is pink eye? Pink eye is the informal word for a condition called conjunctivitis (pronounced kon-junk-tih-VY-tis). It's an inflammation (swelling) of the eye, and it also causes the white of the eye to turn pink.

The condition conjunctivitis is called pink eye because it causes the white part of the eye to turn pink.
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How do you know you have pink eye? This might seem like a trick question. Of course your eyes will look pink and may be swelled, but there are some other symptoms, or signs, of pink eye:

  • Itching or burning
  • Watering
  • Green, gooey tears
  • Crusty eyelashes, especially when you wake up

Yikes, pink eye doesn't sound like fun! Fortunately, it often clears up on its own.

What Causes Pink Eye?

There are three main causes of pink eye: germs, allergens and irritants.

Germs

Tiny bacteria or viruses can cause pink eye. These germs are so small that you would need a powerful microscope to see them. That's how they can infect our eyes without being detected.

These germs catch a ride on your hands. The bacteria or viruses can get on your hands when you touch things that a person with pink eye has touched, like a doorknob or computer keyboard. If you touch your face after you touch these things, the germs can transfer to your eyes, giving you pink eye!

Since we pick up these germs from other people and the things they touch, pink eye caused by bacteria or viruses is contagious (spread from person to person). So, while it's usually nice to share, make sure you aren't sharing pink eye! You can be a germ buster by simply washing your hands before you touch your face.

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