Is It Pink Eye or Allergies?

April 20, 2021


We’re all familiar with symptoms of the common cold, but sometimes other conditions are to blame for itchy eyes and a scratchy throat. If your eyes have become especially watery and itchy, you may not be sure whether allergies or pink eye is causing your discomfort. Learn how to tell the difference between the two so that you can get the best treatment for rapid relief.

An Introduction to Pink Eye

Pink eye is an incredibly common infection, especially among children. It forms when the thin, filmy membrane that covers the inside of the eyelid becomes inflamed. It can occur in bacterial, viral, or allergic form. 

Bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious, while allergic conjunctivitis is simply the body’s reaction to an allergen. The viral form of pink eye, meanwhile, is caused by the same virus as the common cold and will often become noticeable in the midst of a bad cold, making it very contagious and uncomfortable. 

It’s easy to recognize pink eye by these distinct symptoms:

  • Redness in the white of the eye
  • Swelling eyelids
  • Itching and burning in the eyelids
  • Excessive tearing
  • Drainage that causes the eyelashes to stick together

Viral pink eye usually lasts about one week, but medicines cannot accelerate healing. That’s why it’s important to wash hands often, avoid contact with others, and wash linens after each use. Bacterial pink eye, on the other hand, can be treated with antibiotics for a quicker recovery. 

What Are Seasonal Allergies?

There are certain times of the year, usually spring and fall, when outdoor molds release spores, weeds, and grasses, and trees release pollen particles into the air. While this is a natural and important component of a healthy ecosystem, it, unfortunately, causes the immune systems of people with allergies to treat the mold spores and pollen particles ‒ allergens ‒ as foreign invaders in the body. 

When the body believes it is being attacked by a foreign substance, it releases many different chemicals into the bloodstream, including histamines. Histamines are helpful in the right situation; but when it comes to fighting allergens, histamines only manage to cause seasonal allergy symptoms like:

  • Runny nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing

How To Tell the Difference

The best way to determine whether you have pink eye or allergies is to consider your symptoms as a whole. Seasonal allergies cause many different symptoms that don’t involve the eyes at all. Pink eye, on the other hand, only affects the eyes. 

If you’re not sure, it’s best to see a doctor for a professional diagnosis. AFC Urgent Care serves patients throughout St. Petersburg, Florida, with superior, convenient care, including telemedicine appointments. Call (727) 685-3779 now to learn more. 


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