What are the Symptoms of Conjunctivitis in Babies?

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  • Written By: A. Pasbjerg
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2019
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Conjunctivitis in babies can cause a variety of symptoms, which may vary depending on the underlying cause of the problem. The most common indication of the condition is reddening of the whites of the eyes, which is why it is commonly known as pink eye. This may affect one eye or both, or it may start in one and then spread to the other. Often, babies' eyes will tear up and water when they have conjunctivitis; they may also have a thick, yellowish discharge from their eyes. Some babies' eyes may become swollen and itchy, and others may have symptoms like a runny nose or coughing.

Reddish, bloodshot eyes are the primary symptom of conjunctivitis in babies, and is common to all forms of the condition. One or both eyes typically develop a pinkish hue in the whites; often the rims of the eyelids become red and inflamed as well. This is due to irritation of the conjunctiva, which is a transparent membrane that lays over the inside of the eyelids and the whites of the eyes.


Discharge from the eyes is a common sign of conjuctivitis in babies. Watering eyes is common to all types of conjunctivitis; some young children's tear drainage passages are not well developed, so some parents may notice tears spilling over their baby's eyelids. If the pink eye is caused by a bacteria like staphylococcus or streptococcus, a yellow, mucous-like discharge may be present. Often a baby's eyelids and lashes will be crusty or stick together due to excessive watering and discharge.

Typically, conjunctivitis in babies is the result of an infection, either bacterial or viral. In cases where a virus is to blame, the pink eye is often accompanied by other symptoms, often similar to a common cold. These can include a runny nose, sneezing, or coughing. Some babies may even develop a fever as their bodies work to fight off the virus.

Allergic conjunctivitis in babies is relatively rare, and may present slightly differently from cases caused by infection. The eyes will tend to be swollen and itchy when allergens are the cause. The baby may also have a runny nose at the same time due to the allergic reaction. These symptoms may persist as long as the baby continues to be exposed to whatever is causing the irritation; there is also a risk that infection will set in if it is allowed to go on for too long.


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Post 3

My little one has conjunctivitis right now. Her eye is red and she's trying to rub it all the time. My mother told me to use breast milk to clean her eye. Apparently breast milk treats the infection and soothes the eye.

I'm not so sure. Has anyone heard of this home remedy for pink eye symptoms?

Post 2

@anamur-- Does the discharge have a color?

I think it's possible for an infant to have conjunctivitis that young. My daughter had it when she was two months old and she also had a swollen eye and discharge. But the discharge was green. We had to use antibiotic eye cream to treat it. It also helped to wipe her eye with a warm, wet cloth.

It's good that you made an appointment because it might not be an infection. Allergies and eye irritation can cause conjunctivitis too. So let the pediatrician diagnose it first. Don't worry though, I'm sure it will be gone in no time.

Post 1

Can a two week old infant have conjunctivitis?

My son is two weeks old and this morning I noticed that he has some crusty discharge near his right eye and his top eyelid looks swollen. I've just made an appointment with the pediatrician for the afternoon but I don't understand how he could get an infection so soon.

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