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Cocoon Understands - Conjunctivitis

What is Conjunctivitis?

The conjunctiva is a thin mucus membrane that covers the visible part of the eyeball and the under side of the eyelids.  This membrane protects and lubricates the eye.  When the conjunctiva becomes inflamed, the condition is called conjunctivitis.  Conjunctivitis is the most common eye problem children can have.   It can cause redness, itching, inflammation or swelling and a clear or white, yellow or greenish gooey liquid to collect in the eyes.  Conjunctivitis usually doesn't hurt, but the itching can be irritating.  It can feel like you have an eyelash or a speck of sand irritating your eye.  Adults, especially parents and teachers who spend a lot of time with children can get conjunctivitis too.  Conjunctivitis usually lasts a short time, usually a week or less, and then goes away itself.  However treatment may be needed as it can be highly contagious and re-infection may occur.

How do I get Conjunctivitis?

Children can get conjunctivitis for many different reasons.  Most children get it from bacteria or viruses.  This is called infectious conjunctivitis.  Bacteria can be seen with only a powerful microscope, and viruses are even smaller than bacteria!   Bacteria live on your skin or in your nose or mouth all the time and you never know it.   Most do not ever bother you, but certain kinds of bacteria can cause infections like conjunctivitis.  Sometimes children get ear infections when they have conjunctivitis as the same bacteria can cause both problems.  Viruses, like the kind that can give you a cold, can also cause conjunctivitis.   Conjunctivitis is easy to catch just through touching. You can get conjunctivitis by touching the hand of an infected friend who has touched his or her eyes.   If you, in turn then touch your eyes, the infection can be spread to you. Children may also get conjunctivitis due to allergies or because they get sometimes irritating in their eyes.  These kinds of conjunctivitis are not contagious. 

How is Conjunctivitis Diagnosed?

Conjunctivitis is usually diagnosed after your doctor takes a complete medical history and examines your child and their eyes.  A swab may be taken which helps confirm the cause.  There are several eye diseases which also cause a red eye.  Usually these diseases cause symptoms not usually found in conjunctivitis - such as pain, blurred vision or severe light sensitivity.   If these symptoms are present or your child’s eye is not improving after the usual treatment, please visit your doctor again.


There are many different causes.  The most common are:

  • Bacteria Viruses
  • Allergies - such as to grasses and tree pollens
  • Chemicals/Irritants
  • Blocked tear drainage system. 
  • Certain bacteria may cause a secondary infection.


  • Clear, thin, watery discharge (usually seen in viral and allergic causes)
  • Thick, yellow or green discharge (usually seen in bacterial causes)
  • A gritty feeling in the eye
  • Swelling of the eye
  • Redness of the eye


  • Wash hands frequently and keep away from infected eyes
  • Avoid sharing towels, pillows and bed linen
  • Do not use eye medication which has been prescribed to someone else, or is out of date
  • Please do not send children or  babies to pre-school while their eye is weeping they may require at least 48 hours after treatment has started before they can return