Is my preschooler's pink eye contagious to my new baby?

Q: My son's preschool recently sent him home with pink eye. He has no discharge or fever, but his eyes are red. Is he contagious to my new baby?

A: Conjunctivitis, or "pink eye," is an irritation of the eyelids and the lining around the eyeballs (the conjunctiva). The condition can be caused by bacteria, dust, allergies or viruses. Of these, the bacterial form is the most severe, with swelling around the eye, thick greenish discharge and, sometimes, fever. Since your son doesn't have any discharge or fever, he probably has the viral or allergic form.

The best way to treat any form of conjunctivitis is by flushing the eyes with a saline solution every few hours; hot, damp compresses also help (be careful here, of course). If your toddler's pink eye is caused by bacteria, you'll need to treat it with antibiotic drops as well, so be sure to consult with your doctor if you're suspicious.

To keep the pink eye from spreading to other people—it may be contagious, especially if it's bacterial—encourage your son to wash his hands often. Make sure he doesn't share towels with family members and keep him home from school if he shows symptoms of the bacterial form.