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Sore and Sticky Eyes

It is quite common for babies and children to get sticky and sore looking eyes at times.

This can be caused by a few different things.

  • Blocked tear ducts ( very common in young babies).
  • Viral or Bacterial Infection.
  • An allergic reaction (like in hay fever).

Often this can be cared for at home until it clears and you will not need to see a doctor. You do not need to keep your child off nursery or school because of this.

  • It is common for new born babies tear ducts mot to work too well in the early weeks and months. It will usually clear over first few months and almost always by a year of age.

    • It is not harmful to their sight.
    • It is not ‘catching.'
    • It does not require any medication.
    • It is not usually sore.
    • The eye may get crusty. You can care for this at home with bathing the affected eye ( see technique below).
    • If the eye gets sore from weeping try a smear of Vaseline on the eyelid.
    • Gentle massage can help. With a clean finger apply gentle pressure to the corner of the eye by the bridge of the nose a few times a day.
    • If the white of the eye becomes pink and sore it may have become infected – see your pharmacist for advice (find a local pharmacy *here*).

    If your baby is less than a month old talk to your midwife or health visitor if you are worried it may be an infection – they can assess your baby’s eye and take a swab if they think it needs further investigation.
    If the blocked tear duct is still a problem when your baby is a year old see your GP who may refer you for a specialist assessment.

  • Sticky eyes caused by viruses or bacteria make;

    • The white of the eye ‘pink’ and inflamed and feel sore.
    • The eye feel Itchy and irritated ( may feel like it has something ‘in it’)
    • Be runny and gunky

    Whether the sticky eye is caused by a virus or bacteria it will usually clear by itself in a week or two. Whilst it is sore;

    • Bathe it regularly (see technique below)
    • Use clean, cool flannels to rest on eyes to soothe.
    • Be careful not to share towels, flannels or pillows with others – it is easily passed from one person to another.
    • Wash your hands frequently using soap and warm water.

    If the eye continues to be inflamed and sore after a few days contact your GP surgery for an appointment to see one of the team. You may need antibiotic drops.

  • Symptoms of soreness caused by allergy are very similar to other causes of sticky eyes.

    Sometimes it might come and go quickly for example if you have used a new soap that has not suited you Allergies like hay fever can cause really sore eyes over a longer period.

    •  Speak to your pharmacist for advice on drops, medication to help (find a local pharmacy *here*).
    •  Bathe sore eyes and use cooling flannels (See below).
    •  Avoid the causes of the allergy wherever possible.
    •  Wear sunglasses outside if you have hay fever.
    •  Dust and hoover regularly.

    If eyes swell suddenly as a result of possible allergy seek immediate medical advice.

  • You will need:

    • Small clean pot.
    • Cooled, recently boiled water.
    • Clean cotton wool.
    • Rubbish bag.

    It is not hard to clean eyes and can be very soothing and comforting.

    • Wash your hands with soap and warm water.
    • Start with the least sticky eye first.
    • Get a clean piece of cotton wool. Dip the cotton wool in cool-boiled water.
    • Do one gentle wipe of the eye. From the inside corner to outer edge. Wiping off any crustiness.
    • Continue until that eye is clean. Then repeat with the stickiest eye.
    • Get rid of rubbish and wash your hands again to prevent spreading around the family.

    Bathe the eyes again when any stickiness builds up.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

You can speak to other Norfolk parents and carers by clicking our online community forum below. 


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