Conjunctivitis is a common eye condition that affects children, especially under 5 years of age. It can either be caused by an infection or by an allergy. Infectious conjunctivitis is contagious and may spread to other household members. Allergic conjunctivitis is more common in children with allergies such as hay fever.
If your child has conjunctivitis, they may have:
Your child does not need to be excluded from school or childcare if they have conjunctivitis.
Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999
Please ring your GP surgery or call NHS 111 - dial 111
If symptoms persist for 4 hours or more and you have not been able to speak to either a member of staff from your GP practice or to NHS 111 staff, then consider taking them to your nearest Emergency Department
Additional advice is also available to young families for coping with crying of well babies – click here
Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, call NHS 111 – dial 111
Good hand and respiratory hygiene are important for stopping the spread of many bugs. By teaching your child how to wash their hands properly with soap for 20 seconds, using a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes, and keeping away from others when feeling unwell, they will be able to reduce the risk of picking up or spreading infections.
If your child has mild conjunctivitis, gentle cleaning of the eyes with cotton balls soaked in warm water may help your child feel better.
Clean in one direction only, outwards from the inside (nose side) of the eye. This prevents the other eye becoming infected if only one eye is affected. Discard the cotton ball each time to prevent reinfection.
Do not try to clean inside the eyelids as this may cause damage to the inside of the eye. Lubricating eye drops such as ‘artificial tears’ may give some relief.
Although infective conjunctivitis is contagious, the likelihood of it spreading is not high unless there is close contact with others. To reduce the risk of spread, they should wash their hands regularly (especially after rubbing their eyes) and avoid sharing towels, pillows, eye drops, make-up with others until the discharge from their eyes has cleared. Most children with conjunctivitis do not need treatment with oral antibiotics or antibiotic eye drops, irrespective of whether their infection is caused by a virus or bacteria.
Sore, inflamed and itchy eyes due to allergic conjunctivitis may be helped by antihistamines. Speak to pharmacist about antihistamine use for your child.
Most conjunctivitis in children (bacterial or viral) is mild. It usually clears within 7 to 10 days without antibiotics.
Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.
Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns or to the Community Paediatricians or to the child and adolescent mental health services.
Contact them by phoning your Health Visitor Team or local Children’s Centre.
Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:
For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?
School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.
Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.
There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.
Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.
They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-
Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.
If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.
Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.
For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?
A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.