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Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis) In Babies – Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

5 min read

Pink eye or conjunctivitis is very common among babies. Even the newborns are susceptible to pink eye as they have blocked tear ducts, low immunity and they can get exposed to bacteria which is normally present in the birth canal during vaginal birth. Let’s explore more about pinkeye in babies.
pinkeye in babies

What Is Pinkeye In Babies?

In both the babies and the adults, the inner side of the eyelids and the white of the eyes are lined with a transparent membrane called conjunctiva. The infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, which can be caused by microbes or mechanical irritation, is called conjunctivitis. The blood vessels in the eyes will become more visible when they get inflamed. This gives the characteristic red or pink color to the white part of the eyes. Hence the name pinkeye.

How Common Is Pinkeye In Babies?

Pinkeye mostly affects babies above three-month as they have low immune system. Sometimes newborns can also get it during a vaginal birth. Babies are likely to touch their eyes every now and then and are therefore more susceptible to get pinkeye. The infection generally begins in one eye, and then eventually spreads to the next eye.

What Causes Pinkeye In Babies?

The pinkeye in babies is caused by:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses that cause common cold can also cause pink eye in babies
  • Allergic conditions like hay fever or allergens like dust, pollen, and animal dander can cause pinkeye in babies
  • Pollutants like smoke or fumes or chemicals in the air can also cause conjunctivitis
  • If chlorine water or soap gets into the eyes, it can irritate the conjunctiva causing the pinkeye in babies
  • Twenty percentage of babies are born with blocked tear duct. The blockage gives rise to symptoms similar to conjunctivitis
How Contagious Is Pinkeye?

Apart from the causes mentioned above, the bacterial and viral pinkeye are highly contagious. The baby will get bacterial and viral pinkeye:

  • If an infected person happens to touch the baby
  • If you mistakenly clean your baby’s eye with something used by the infected person like a towel, handkerchief or a tissue
  • Contaminated water and beddings are another cause
  • The baby can get pinkeye through coughing and sneezing of an infected person
What Are The Symptoms Of Pinkeye In Babies?

The symptoms of pinkeye in babies varies:

  • If the eyes are pinkish or reddish in color, watering, and has greenish or yellow discharge, it is the indication that the baby is having pinkeye due to viral or bacterial infection
  • If the eyes are pinkish or reddish in color, watering, and itchy followed by a runny, itchy, or stuffy nose, it is the indication that the baby is having pinkeye due to an allergy

Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling of eyelids
  • Discharge from the eye sticks the eyelids together and cause difficulty to open the eyes after the baby wakes up from a nap
  • Irritation in the eyes

eyerops for pinkeye

How Is Pinkeye In Babies Treated?

The treatment of the pink eyes in babies depends on the type of pink eye that has affected your baby:

Treating Bacterial Conjunctivitis
  • The pediatrician will prescribe an antibiotic ointment or antibiotic eye drops
  • Ensure you finish the whole course, which usually lasts for seven days, even if the symptoms go away
  • Wash your hand thoroughly before applying the medicine
  • Your baby’s eyes are extremely sensitive. Never share or use old medicines. Old medicines are not sterile and can worsen the infection
  • If you’re using eye drops, target to put it in the inside corner of your baby’s eye. This is the easiest way to do when your baby’s eye is shut
  • Wash your baby’s eye with warm water and remove the dried crusty discharge before applying the drops or ointment. This will make the medicine more effective
  • Gently clean the eyelids with cotton cloth dipped in warm water every morning so that the baby can open the eyes without much difficulty
  • A warm compress can be comforting in this situation. Soak a clean cloth in warm water and apply it to your baby’s eye
Treating Viral Conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis usually disappears on its one. As the antibiotic drops has no effect on viral conjunctivitis, all the above-mentioned measures other than drops and ointment will help to alleviate the irritation and ensure fast relief.

Treating Allergic Conjunctivitis
  • The first step is to identify the allergen and keep the baby away from the allergen
  • Cool compress is excellent in getting relief from allergic conjunctivitis. Put a cotton cloth dipped in ice water above the eye
Conjunctivitis Due To Blocked Tear Duct

As we already mentioned, twenty percent of the babies are born with blocked tear duct. Massaging gently the corner of the eye near the nose will help to unblock the tear duct.
Breast milk is excellent in treating all type of conjunctivitis. Putting a few drops of expressed breast milk on the affected eye several times a day will help clear any discharge and treat mild infection or prevent it from worsening.

How Is Pinkeye In Newborns Prevented?

A newborn has an increased chance of getting pinkeye, especially during a vaginal birth as they are exposed to the bacteria in the birth canal. Both the normal bacteria and the bacteria that is present in the birth canal if the mother suffers from any infection or sexually transmitted diseases can cause pink eye in newborn babies. To prevent this, immediately after the delivery, the doctor will apply antibiotic ointment or eye drops. However, this can give rise to chemical conjunctivitis as the chemicals in antibacterial eye drops or ointment irritates the conjunctiva. This is relatively harmless and will disappear within 36 hrs.

What Can I Do To Prevent My Baby From Getting Pinkeye?

Hundred percent prevention is impossible. But there are some measures you can take to reduce the chances of your baby getting pinkeye.

  • Never allow any visitors in your house to touch your baby without washing their hands
  • Never share towels, pillowcases, beddings with other members of the family
  • Never mix the clothes of baby with other members of family
  • Wash baby’s cloth in warm soapy water
  • Never take your baby outdoors when there is smoke or smog in the atmosphere
  • Avoid the things that can cause an allergy in your baby

If the condition persists long or worsens, it is advisable to see your baby’s doctor immediately. Pinkeye can be very uneasy and can make your little one uncomfortable. We hope this article will help you to deal well with this condition.
If you have any suggestions or home remedies to deal with pinkeye in babies, please feel free to share with us in the comments section below.

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