Eye - Red Without Pus  

This Care Guide Covers:

  • The eye looks irritated
  • Red or pink color of the white of the eye
  • May have increased tears (a watery eye)
  • Eyelid may be puffy (mildly swollen)
  • No pus or yellow discharge
  • Not caused by an eye injury

If not, see these topics
When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Eyelid is very red or very swollen
  • Nonstop tears or blinking
  • Vision is blurred
  • Eye pain that's more than mild
  • Turns away from any light
  • Age under 12 weeks old with fever. (Caution: Do NOT give your baby any fever medicine before being seen.)
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • Only 1 eye is red and lasts more than 24 hours
  • Fever lasts more than 3 days
  • Fever returns after gone for more than 24 hours
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Age under 1 month old
  • Redness lasts more than 7 days
Parent Care at Home If
  • Red eye is part of a cold
  • Red eye is caused by mild irritant (such as soap, sunscreen, food, smoke, chlorine)
Causes & Health Information

Causes

  • Pinkeye. When the white of the eye becomes pink or red, it’s called pinkeye. Conjunctivitis is another name for pinkeye.  The conjunctiva is the membrane that covers the white of the eye.  It becomes pink when it is infected or irritated. Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) has many causes.
  • Viral conjunctivitis is the main cause of pink eyes without pus. Most often, it is part of a cold.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis. Pinkeye plus the eyelids are stuck together with pus.  Most likely, this is a secondary infection of a viral conjunctivitis. 
  • Allergic conjunctivitis from pollens. Most children with eye allergies also have nasal allergies (hay fever). Symptoms include sneezing and clear nasal discharge.
  • Irritant conjunctivitis from sunscreen, soap, chlorine in pool water, smoke, or smog. Irritants can also be transferred by touching the eye with dirty fingers. Irritants can be food or plant resins.
  • Foreign body (FB). If only one side has pinkeye, a FB in the eye must be considered.
  • Serious Cause. A bacterial infection of the eyelids and skin around them. Causes the lids to be very red and swollen.

Return to School

  • Pinkeye with a watery discharge is harmless. There is a slight risk it could be passed to others. Children with pinkeye from a cold do not need to miss any school.
CARE ADVICE FOR RED EYE WITHOUT PUS

Treatment For Viral Eye Infections
  1. What You Should Know:
    • Some viruses cause watery eyes (viral conjunctivitis).
    • It may be the first symptom of a cold.
    • It isn't serious. You can treat this at home.
    • Colds can cause a small amount of mucus in the corner of the eye.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Eye Cleansing:
    • Cleanse eyelids with warm water and a clean cotton ball.
    • Try to do this every 2 hours while your child is awake and at home.
    • This usually will keep a bacterial infection from occurring.
  3. Artificial Tears:
    • Artificial tears often make red eyes feel better. No prescription is needed.
    • Use 1 drop per eye 3 times a day as needed. Use them after cleansing the eyelids.
    • Antibiotic and vasoconstrictor eyedrops do not help viral eye infections.
  4. Eye Drops: How to Give
    • For a cooperative child, gently pull down on the lower lid. Put 1 drop inside the lower lid. Then ask your child to close the eye for 2 minutes. Reason: So the medicine will get into the tissues.
    • For a child who won't open his eye, have him lie down. Put 1 drop over the inner corner of the eye. If your child opens the eye or blinks, the eye drop will flow in. If he doesn't open the eye, the drop will slowly seep into the eye.
  5. Contact Lenses:
    • Children who wear contact lenses need to switch to glasses for a while.
    • Reason: To prevent damage to the cornea.
  6. Return To School:
    • Pinkeye with watery discharge is harmless. There is a slight risk it could be passed to others.
    • Children with pink eyes from a cold do not need to miss any school.
    • Pinkeye is not a public health risk. Keeping these children home is over-reacting. If asked, tell the school your child is on eye drops (artificial tears).
  7. What to Expect:
    • Pinkeye with a cold usually lasts about 7 days.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Your child gets pus in the eye
    • Redness lasts more than 1 week
    • Your child becomes worse
Treatment For Mild Eye Irritants
  1. What You Should Know:
    • Most eye irritants cause redness of the eyes.
    • It that will go away on its own.
    • You can treat that at home.
  2. Face Cleansing:
    • Wash the face with mild soap and water.
    • Wash off the eyelids with water.
    • This will remove any irritants still on the face.
  3. Eye Wash:
    • Rinse the eye with warm water for 5 minutes.
  4. Eye Drops:
    • Red eyes from irritants usually feel much better after being washed out.
    • If they remain uncomfortable and bloodshot, you can use some artificial tears.
    • You can also use a long-acting vasoconstrictor eye drop. No prescription is needed. Ask your pharmacist to suggest a brand.
    • Dose: Use 1 drop every 8 to 12 hours as needed.
  5. What to Expect:
    • After the irritant is removed, the eyes usually return to normal color.
    • This may take 1 to 2 hours.
  6. Prevention:
    • Try to avoid future contact with the irritant.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pus in the eye occurs
    • Redness lasts more than 7 days
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
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Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/1/2012

Last Revised: 1/13/2013

Content Set: Child Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.