Conjunctivitis in infants and children

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1997 Feb;16(2 Suppl):S17-20. doi: 10.1097/00006454-199702001-00005.


Background: Acute bacterial conjunctivitis, chiefly affecting young children, is generally caused by one of three common pathogens, Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae and adenovirus. H. influenzae is the most prevalent causative organism. Some patients presenting initially with conjunctivitis subsequently develop acute otitis media, with H. influenzae the most common etiologic agent of what has been termed the "conjunctivitis-otitis" syndrome. Optimal treatment of acute conjunctivitis would result in a clinical and bacteriologic cure of the conjunctivitis and the prevention of the development of otitis media. Application of topical antimicrobials at 4- to 6-h intervals a day for 1 week to 10 days results in the resolution of the conjunctivitis. However, topical treatment is difficult to administer to toddlers and does not effectively reduce the potential for the development of otitis media. Compared with topical and placebo treatment, oral antibiotics effective against H. influenzae have proved to be most effective in preventing the otitis media associated with conjunctivitis.

Conclusion: Acute bacterial conjunctivitis is a common disorder in children < 6 years of age. H. influenzae is the most common etiology of the "conjunctivitis-otitis syndrome." The optimal treatment for this condition is still being studied.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Administration, Oral
  • Administration, Topical
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conjunctivitis, Bacterial / complications*
  • Conjunctivitis, Bacterial / drug therapy*
  • Haemophilus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Haemophilus influenzae*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Otitis Media / complications*
  • Otitis Media / drug therapy
  • Syndrome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents