Eye Infections in Babies

A baby with redness in the eyes crying due to discomfort

It’s never a nice thing to see your baby’s eyes red and leaky because of an infection. In case you find your baby’s eyes crusty, gunky or red, don’t panic just yet as eye infections are common in babies. They can be caused by allergies, irritation or infection which can be easily determined by the doctor.

Types of Common Eye Infection in Babies

A little boy with a swollen red eye

To understand what kind of infection your baby has and the causes and treatment, let’s look at some baby eye infection treatments:

1. Sty (Stye)

If your child has a red bump anywhere on his eyelid, it could be a sty or a hordeolum.

Signs

It will look tender and filled with pus, but you might also see white or yellow discharge making the eye a little bit crusty.

Causes

It usually happens when a bacterium infects an oil gland which is present at the base of the eyelash. It is by no means serious but still should be treated before anything more serious happens.

Treatment

  • Warm Wet Compress: A sty usually drains on its own but to help ease the pain and discomfort, you can try soaking a clean cloth in warm water and pressing it against your baby’s eyes for 15 minutes. The heat will break open the pus and help it drain faster. Repeat this procedure 4 times a day.
  • Leave The Sty Alone: Never try to pop or squeeze the sty on your own to drain the pus. This will cause more pain to your little one and also increase the transfer of infection from your hands to the baby’s eyes.
  • Prevent Infection: Clean the area around the sty with a warm cloth or cotton once the pus drains through. Use different cloth pieces for both eyes so as to reduce further infection chances.

2. Pinkeye/Conjunctivitis

It is an inflammation of the inner eyelid or eyeball.

Signs

If you see that the whites or rims of your baby’s eyes are red leading the eyes to be crusty, it could be due to pinkeye or conjunctivitis.

Causes

Pinkeye usually happens due to an allergen or irritation to the membrane surrounding the eye whites or the insides of the eyelid. Some causes are –

  • Viral Eye Infection– If your baby has a cold along with pinkeye, it is usually due to a virus.
  • Bacterial Eye Infection– If you notice a thick yellow discharge in your baby’s eyes, it could be due to an infection by bacteria such as staphylococcus, streptococcus or Haemophilus.
  • Allergic Reactions– This is a rare cause, but your baby might be allergic to smoke, dust or any other allergen, especially if the eyes are swollen, red and watery.

Treatment

Go to the doctor immediately as he will able to treat your baby depending on what kind of infection it is. Viral conjunctivitis usually heals on its own, and the doctor will instruct you to keep your baby’s eyes clean by washing and clearing the discharge from time to time. If the condition persists beyond two weeks, it is better to consult the doctor again.

3. Chalazion

A chalazion is a lump or cyst which forms on the eyelid.

Signs

It can start small but grow big as a pea. Unlike a sty, it does not produce discharge and is not contagious or painful. However, it can blur your baby’s vision as it can press against the eyeball while growing.

Causes

A chalazion is due to chronic inflammation of one of the oil-producing glands located in the upper or lower eyelid.

Treatment

  • Prevent Infection: Never try to squeeze a chalazion. Use antibiotics and ointments prescribed by the doctor to prevent infection.
  • Warm Compress: This can help soften the duct blocked with oil and causes drainage. Press a warm, wet compress against the affected area for 15 minutes and repeat this process 4 times a day.
  • Seek Medical Help: Consult an ophthalmologist if the chalazion doesn’t go away even after the compresses. Your baby may need an injection or a surgical procedure to remove it.

4. Periorbital and Orbital Cellulitis

If your baby’s eyes are red and swollen shut, it could be because of periorbital or orbital cellulitis.

Signs

These include fever, runny nose and conjunctivitis.

Causes

This is a serious bacterial eye infection in infants which happens when harmful bacteria enter the eye. It can affect one eye or both.

Treatment

Consult your baby’s doctor immediately. He will examine your baby’s eyes using cultures, blood tests, and X-ray tests and prescribe ointments or an injection to clear the infections. It usually goes away in 2 days, but you can give your baby the antibiotics till the doctor tells you to stop.

5. Blepharitis

If you see your baby’s eyelids inflamed and his eyes watery, red and irritated, it may be because of blepharitis.

Signs

The eyelashes may fall off if another infection happens alongside blepharitis.

Causes

Blepharitis is due to overproduction of oil in the eyelid or a bacterial infection. It does not cause any vision problem but may be followed by a sty, chalazion or conjunctivitis if not treated in time.

Treatment

Consult your doctor to be doubly sure. After that, you can use saline solutions or baby shampoos to wash your baby’s eyes, followed by antibiotic drops and a warm compress.

6. Blocked Tear Duct

As the name suggests, it happens when the tear ducts are blocked due to fluids and become swollen.

Signs

If you see lots of sticky discharge that glues your baby’s eyes shut and eyelashes together, it can be due to a blocked tear duct.

Causes

When the baby is inside your uterus, the tissue within the tear duct usually dissolves and leaves a hollow core. If that doesn’t happen, the tissue may remain and block the duct.

Treatment

Usually a blocked duct opens on its own, and the discharge will go away with time. You can use warm water to wet a cloth in water to clean the discharge from your baby’s eyes. If the condition still persists when your baby is 12-18 months old, consult a doctor as she or he may need surgery.

Home Remedies for Eye Infection in Infants

Below are some effective home remedies you can use to treat your baby’s eye infection:

  • Boil some water and place a tea bag in it for a few minutes. Remove the tea bag and wring it to drain excess water. Place it on your baby’s eyelids to soothe the pain and irritation.
  • Add some salt to boiling water and allow it to cool down. Dip a cotton ball into this mixture and place it on your baby’s eyelid to give some relief.
  • Breast milk is also a surprisingly effective home remedy as it has anti-bacterial healing properties. Using a clean dropper, place two drops of breast milk on the affected area around your baby’s eyes.
  • Soak some jasmine flowers in clean water overnight. Apply the liquid to the affected eye using a dropper. Jasmine flower has a cooling effect.
  • Chamomile oil is also effective in treating an eye infection. Add a few drops of chamomile oil to a pan of boiling water and allow it to cool. Apply the mixture to the affected eyelid using a cotton ball.
  • If the eye infection is due to a blocked tear duct, gently massage the area between the eyes and the nasal area to give your little one some relief from the pain.
  • A bacterial eye infection can only be treated with ointments or antibiotic drops. However, you can clean the sticky yellow discharge around your infant’s eyes with saltwater eye drops.
  • Using a warm compress on your baby’s eyes is effective for bringing down irritation and swelling.
  • It is extremely important to wash and sanitize your hands before and after touching your infant’s infected eyes.
  • If eye drops given during the time of birth is the cause of the eye infection, then such issues will go away on their own.

Why Home Remedies are Preferred in case of Baby Eye Infections?

The biggest reason behind home remedies being the preferred method of treatment for baby eye infections is that using alternative medical ways will increase the chances of germ attack and cause eye infections, eye flu etc. much more easily. To prevent harmful microorganisms from entering your baby’s eyes, using the above-listed home remedies are the best way to treat his or her eye infection.
Of course, the above-mentioned home remedies are effective to provide relief, but it is always better to consult your baby’s doctor whenever such an eye infection develops. Also, during such times, remember to keep your infant away from other children to avoid the risk of transferring the infection.

Also Read:

Sticky Or Watery Eyes in Babies
Eye Problems in Infants