Conjunctivitis in young children


Are your child's eyes red, sticky, and watery? Then you should definitely consider conjunctivitis, which in certain cases can even be contagious and in any case requires a treating doctor. Should actually be conjunctivitis (Conjunctivitis) are diagnosed, see our article below for the best tips for treating the condition.

If you want to get an overview of the conjunctiva first, read on here: The conjunctiva - general structure and function

Symptoms and treatment tips

Conjunctivitis in young children manifests itself through the following symptoms:

  • a red, watery eye that burns and itches and may cause pain
  • after getting up, sticky and crusty eyes with slimy secretion
  • Foreign body sensation in the eye that can be felt when winking
  • Photosensitivity

Read more on the topic: Pus in the eye

Conjunctivitis can affect one or both eyes. This depends on the cause and the hygiene observed. Allergic conjunctivitis usually occurs on both sides, whereas pathogen-related inflammation initially only occurs on one side. However, these can spread to the other eye via smear infection through rubbing in the eyes.

In the case of allergic conjunctivitis (hay fever), there is also a runny nose and the eyes are usually not stuck together with pus, but are characterized by a clear secretion.

Our best tips for treatment:

  • Always consult a doctor first!
    If conjunctivitis is suspected, a doctor should definitely be consulted. This is very important, especially if the eyes are sticky with pus, as there is a high probability that the inflammation is bacterial, contagious and requires treatment.
  • Clean the affected eye!
    The sticky eyes can be carefully cleaned with warm water. Applying a warm washcloth can also relieve acute itching and burning. Especially with a viral inflammation, which usually heals itself after a few days, only regular cleaning of the eye with a wet cloth is necessary.

    Procedure: You can use the tip of a handkerchief for cleaning. Your child should look slightly upwards. Now pull the lower eyelid down slightly and remove the foreign body with the handkerchief.
    A gauze swab is best for cleaning stuck eyelid rims or eyelashes. This should be moistened lukewarm. Now you can carefully wipe from the outer to the inner corner of the eye.
  • Use eye drops and eye ointments only on the recommendation of your doctor!
    Best for toddlers, eye drops are vegetable-free and contain no preservatives. Treatment with Euphrasia (eyebright) has proven particularly effective. Euphrasia can be used as eye drops, but it is also available as globules or tablets. Since they are purely herbal, no side effects are to be expected.
    In the case of inflammation caused by bacteria, it is necessary to give ointments or eye drops containing antibiotics, which fight the bacteria. In the case of conjunctivitis in babies, breast milk can also be dripped into the affected eye as an alternative to conventional eye drops, as it has an anti-inflammatory effect.
    However, you should never use eye drops or ointments unless your doctor has specifically recommended or prescribed this!

    Top tip: If your child struggles or cries, put the drops in the corner of their eyes. Now carefully pull off the lower lid, this will cause the drops to distribute by themselves.
  • Do not look!
    Constant rubbing around the eye leads to a delay in healing, as this can lead to the spread of pathogens and increase the risk of infection from a smear infection. So you should make sure that your child does not touch the affected eye too often. Regular hand hygiene of your child as well as your own should also be observed.
  • Give your eyes some rest!
    The eye should not be exposed to any further irritation. Since an accompanying symptom of conjunctivitis can be sensitivity to light, the children's room in particular should be darkened a little. Television or computers should be taboo at this time. Prefer to entertain your child with audio books or toys.
  • Do an allergy test!
    For allergic conjunctivitis, an allergy test should be considered to find out the exact cause. Depending on the extent and need, desensitization can be considered.

You can find more helpful tips in our article: Treatment of conjunctivitis

How long is conjunctivitis contagious?

Conjunctivitis is contagious as long as the pathogen can be detected in the eye secretion.

  • bacterial inflammation treated with antibiotic eye drops: risk of infection about 2 to 3 days
  • Viral inflammation: risk of infection for several days and the child should not go to daycare or play


Conjunctivitis in young children can be caused by a number of different triggers:

  • viral infection: e.g. by adenovirus, herpes viruses
  • bacterial infection
  • Fungal infection
  • allergic reactions: e.g. hay fever
  • Environmental influences: drafts, smoke or dust, foreign bodies

Both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are highly contagious!