Conjunctivitis can be caused by a bacterial infection or an allergy.  As a general rule bacterial infection results in a sticky eye and an allergy causes a watery eye.  The symptoms of infective conjunctivitis normally begin in one eye. After one to two days, the other eye often becomes affected too, although the first eye may be slightly worse.


The symptoms can vary from person to person, but may include:


  • Red eyes
  • Watering eyes
  • Sticky coating on the eyelashes: you are more likely to notice this when you first wake in the morning. Your eyelids may feel like they are stuck together because the mucus and pus that is produced by the infection forms into sticky clumps on your lashes.
  • Slight soreness: this usually feels like burning or as if there is grit in your eyes.


When your child has infective conjunctivitis it is also common for them to have the symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection. These can be easily managed using Paracetamol (Calpol) and Ibuprofen (Nurofen).   Symptoms may include:


  • coughing
  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • aching limbs


Treating infective conjunctivitis 


Most cases of infective conjunctivitis do not require medical treatment and will heal without treatment in one to two weeks.  However this can be a distressing wait for your child.




  • Gently clean away sticky substances. When your child wakes in the morning, you may notice a sticky substance around their eyes. You can gently clean this away from the eyelids and eyelashes using Lid Care eye wipes.
  • Wash your hands regularly. This is particularly important after you have touched the infected eyes and will stop the infection spreading to other people.
  • Brolene® eye drops are a product available without prescription to treat minor eye infections such as conjunctivitis.  One or two drops should be placed into the lower eyelid four times a day and treatment should be continued for at least 2 days after all symptoms have resolved.  After putting in the drops place your 3rd finger firmly in the corner of the closed eye, this ensures the medication is locked into the eye. Remember to wash your hands.


Many schools and crèches ask that your child is infection free before you bring them back in.  This is sensible advice since the infection is highly contagious and will spread rapidly in such environments.  Antibiotics are not usually prescribed for infective conjunctivitis because they will make little difference to your recovery from infection.