Newborn Sticky Eye: Causes, Signs, Treatment & Prevention

Sticky Eyes in Newborn Babies

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts

When you have your baby in your arms, your panic button always remains on alert mode. And when the baby is in the newborn phase, the magnitude of this anxiety increases. Even a tiny aberration may become a reason for concern. However, when you see a squish of yellowish fluid forming, near your new born’s eyes, you need not panic. Read on to find out what it is and the steps you can take to treat it.

Causes of Sticky Eyes in Infants

The most common causes of sticky eyes in babies are:

  • Babies have narrow tear ducts which makes tear accumulation frequent, leading to sticky eyes.
  • Your baby may have picked up a bacterial infection during birth.

Signs of Sticky Eyes in Babies

Some of the tell-tale signs of sticky eyes include:

  • It is characterised by a yellow or white fluid at the corner of the eyes.
  • The discharge may appear flaky or crusty, especially after sleep.
  • There may also be mild redness and inflammation around or below the eyes.
  • The baby’s eyes may become watery, which could be a result of heavy tearing of the tear ducts.
  • The colour of the discharge can also turn green.

Are Sticky Eyes in Infants Harmful?

Sticky eyes clear after a few days with regular cleaning and will not require further thought. However, in some cases, if it does not cure naturally or the condition aggravates, you may need to seek a doctor’s evaluation.

How Can You Tell That Your Baby Has an Eye Infection?

While an eye infection can often be confused with a rash or a bruise, some of the signs include:

  • Excessive rubbing of eyes and discomfort.
  • Soreness developing around the eyes or the eyes turning red.
  • The discharge gets more frequent and more severe.

Is the Yellow Substance Around Baby’s Eyes a Sign of an Eye Infection?

The yellowish discharge is due to the blocked tear ducts and as the ducts open, the discharge stops. However, in some cases, it may also be a sign of infection and conjunctivitis.

Treatment for an Infant’s Sticky Eye

Here are some home-based treatments for sticky eyes.

1. Sterilised Water

This is the most commonly practised method to clean the eyes.

  • Step 1 – Wash your hands thoroughly. Keep the sterilised water (water that has been boiled and cooled) and sterilised cotton balls handy.
  • Step 2 – Wipe the gluey substance with sterilised cotton gently. Start by gently dabbing the cotton ball in the inner corner of the eyes, and gradually move towards the outer corner of the eyes.
  • Step 3 – Tilt the baby’s head towards the eye that is being cleaned. This will ensure that the water does not trickle down or to the side and prevent cross-contamination.
  • Step 4 – Repeat the process until the eyes are cleaned and use a new cotton bud each time the process is repeated.

2. Saline Solution

The steps mentioned above can be done using a saline solution as well. It minimises the build-up of bacterial infection.

3. Cold Compress

It provides moisture to the eyes and makes it easier to dissolve the flakiness caused by the discharge, and the baby can open their eyes when they wake up.

4. Antibiotic Solution

A paediatrician will be able to suggest eye drops or antibiotic solution for cleaning the discharge. Please follow their instructions and dosage carefully.

5. Massaging

Gently massaging the areas near the eyes and nose may help in opening the blocked ducts, and reduce the chances of the sticky fluid building up. It’s better to consult an ophthalmologist who can demonstrate the massage technique to you practically.

6. External Instrument

The sticky discharge forms because of baby’s blocked tear ducts. If the ducts do not open naturally within a year or so, your doctor may suggest opening up the ducts . The most common approach is surgical probing, where the doctor inserts a medical instrument into the tear duct to remove the obstruction. Remember, this procedure can be performed only by an expert and should not be tried at home.

Tips on how to clean the eyelids and eyes of your baby-

  • Before cleaning bay eyes and eyelids, it is important to wash your hands with water and neutral soap to avoid infecting the baby’s eye.
  • The cleaning should be carried out with a sterilized wet wipe or gauze in order to soften the scabs and facilitate the extraction of secretions. Never rub or scratch if they do not disappear as it could damage the baby’s eye.
  • The eye should always be cleaned from the tear duct to the corner of the eye so that the debris is dragged out.

Tips to Prevent an Eye Infection in Babies

Here are some tips you can follow to protect your baby from an eye infection:

  • Make sure to clean your baby’s hands regularly, as babies tend to rub their eyes, and dirty hands can lead to an eye infection.
  • If a family member or someone around the baby has an eye infection, keep him away from them.
  • Use eye drops or antibiotics only if a paediatrician recommends them.
  • Ensure that the baby’s surroundings are hygienic, and their bedding, towels, and clothes are washed regularly.

When Should You Call the Doctor

Newborn sticky eyes are a result of blocked tear ducts. In most cases, it is not severe and can be treated at home. However, if your baby has sticky eyes for a long time, you should consult a doctor. Make sure to keep a check on the symptoms to avoid eye infection.

Sticky eyes aren’t a problem in itself. In fact, it is a natural process, and in most cases, it gets better with home remedies. But, it is always good to be aware and keep an eye on your baby, so that it does not lead to an infection.

Also Read: Baby Rubbing Eyes: Causes and Symptoms

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