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Childhood Illnesses

Sore & 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 sore or sticky eyes can be cared for at home until they clear and your child will not need to see a doctor. You do not need to keep your child off nursery or school because of this.

Dive Deeper

Blocked Tear Ducts

It is common for new born babies tear ducts not to work too well in the early weeks and months. This will usually clear over first few months and almost always by a year of age.

Block tear ducts are;

  • Not harmful to their sight
  • Not catching
  • Do not require any medication
  • Not usually sore.

What Can Help a Blocked Tear Duct?

The eye may get crusty. You can care for this at home with bathing the affected eye. If the eye gets sore from weeping, you could 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, this can be a sign the eye may have become infected – see your pharmacist for advice.

If your baby is less than a month old talk to your midwife 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. They may refer you for a specialist assessment.

Bacterial or Viral Eye Infection

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. It may feel like it has something in it)
  • Be runny and gunky.

Treating The Eye

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
  • 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.

When To Seek More Help

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

If your baby is less than a month old talk to your midwife if you are worried as it may be an infected. They can assess your baby’s eye and take a swab if they think it needs further investigation.

Allergy Related Sore Eyes

Symptoms of soreness caused by allergy are very similar to other causes of sticky eyes. Some reaction can come and go quickly, for example, if your child has used a new soap that has not suited them. Some allergies, like hay fever, can cause sore eyes over a longer period.

  •  Bathe sore eyes and use cooling flannels
  •  Avoid the causes of the allergy wherever possible
  •  Wear sunglasses outside if you have hay fever
  •  Dust and hoover regularly
  •  Speak to your pharmacist for advice on drops or medication to help.

If your baby is less than a month old talk to your midwife 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 eyes swell suddenly as a result of possible allergy seek immediate medical advice.

How To Bathe Sore & Sticky Eyes

It is not hard to clean eyes and can be very soothing and comforting. Bathe the eyes each time any stickiness builds up.

You will need;

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

How to clean;

    • 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.

Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. 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 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

The Lullaby Trust - Baby Check App- This app has simple checks that you can do if your baby is ill and helps you think about whether they need to see a doctor or health professional.

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

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