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Things I Do, But Should I? - Conjunctivitis

Adrien Selim, MD and Vanessa Cardy, MD
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It can be tricky to distinguish bacterial from viral conjunctivitis.  In this segment, Adrien and Vanessa review diagnostic tips and the evidence behind different treatments for conjunctivitis.  Antibiotic treatment of bacterail conjunctivitis may speed up return to work, though does not dramatically decrease duration of symptoms. Broad spectrum antibiotic drops should be reserved to contact lens wearers.


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Stephen P. -

What are your recommendations regarding return to daycare, school, work for treated presumed bacterial conjunctivitis or untreated presumed viral conjunctivitis? Thanks for the very practical update!

Adrien Selim -

Hey Stephen,

That' a great question, but unfortunately I don't think there is a cut and dry answer. According to an American Family Physician "Diagnosis and Management of Red Eye in Primary Care" article from 2010: all they say is that some schools require 1-2 days of antibiotics before return is allowed. I don't think this is reasonable if the infection appears to be viral. I suppose to be on the safe side the discharge should resolve before return to school/daycare and/or antibiotics for 24-48 hours for bacterial conjunctivitis. However, that may not be feasible for some kids with some mild persistent discharge (I'm ashamed to admit but I've send my kids to school/daycare with some mild discharge). So all this to say, I think it comes down to a case by case situation.

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You Can Do It!! Full episode audio for MD edition 195:21 min - 92 MB - M4AHippo Peds RAP September 2017 Written Summary 315 KB - PDF