There are three types of conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye: viral, allergic, and bacterial. With the exception of allergic conjunctivitis, this condition is typically contagious. The viral type often occurs with an upper respiratory tract infection, a cold, or a sore throat. The allergic type occurs seasonally. Allergic conjunctivitis may also be caused by intolerance to substances such as cosmetics, perfumes, or drugs. Infection usually begins with one eye, but may spread easily to the other eye.
The signs of each type of conjunctivitis are the same: red eyes and watery discharge, itching, and swollen eyelids. A stringy discharge that may cause the eyelids to stick together, especially after sleeping, is another telltale sign of conjunctivitis.
Conjunctivitis in your two-year-old requires a doctor's care because, depending on what type it is, eye drops must be prescribed. Bacterial conjunctivitis is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments that cover a broad range of bacteria. Cool compresses often relieve the discomfort of pinkeye until you can get to the doctor. If your child has pinkeye, she should not be allowed to swim in a pool because some bacteria can be spread through the water.