Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an irritation of the eye and lining of the eyelid. Symptoms may include itching, burning, redness, increased tearing or discharge, sensitivity to light, and crusting on the lids or lashes. How it spreads. Viruses, bacteria, allergens, or irritants can cause pinkeye. When a virus or bacteria is the cause, children can catch it easily by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their eyes. Prevention. To protect your children and yourself, wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. When soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Do not allow children to share towels, pillows, washcloths, or other items with someone who is infected. If you or someone else in your home has pinkeye, wash pillowcases, sheets, washcloths, and towels in hot water and detergent to avoid spreading it. Treatment. Mild conjunctivitis often gets better on its own. Artificial tears and cold packs can help relieve dryness and inflammation. If your child has eye pain, fever, vision problems, headache or intense redness, or is not better within a couple of days, call the doctor. Your child may need prescription medication.