It’s disheartening to see your baby in pain. In case you find your baby’s eyes crusty, gunky or red, it’s likely an eye infection. Eye infections are common in babies and can be caused by an allergy, irritation or infection.
Types of Eye Infections in Babies
Here are the common types of eye infections:
If your child has a red bump on his eyelid, it’s a sty.
The bump is tender and filled with pus. You may also see white or yellow discharge from your baby’s eyes.
It happens when bacteria infect 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.
Apply a Warm Compress
Soak a clean cloth in warm water and press it against your baby’s eyes for 15 minutes. The heat will open the pus and help it drain faster. Repeat this procedure 4 times a day.
Leave the Sty Alone
Don’t pop or squeeze the sty to drain the pus. This will cause more pain to your little one and also transfer bacteria from your hands to his eyes.
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the inner eyelid or eyeball.
If the whites or rims of your baby’s eyes are red, it could be pinkeye or conjunctivitis.
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.
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.
Conjunctivitis heals on its own. Your paediatrician will tell you to keep your baby’s eyes clean. If the condition persists beyond two weeks, it’s better to consult the doctor again.
A chalazion is a lump or cyst which forms on the eyelid.
It can start small but grow big as a pea. Unlike a sty, it doesn’t produce discharge and isn’t contagious or painful. However, it can blur your baby’s vision.
A chalazion is due to chronic inflammation of one of the oil-producing glands located in the upper or lower eyelid.
Administer OTC Medication
Never squeeze a chalazion. Use antibiotics and ointments prescribed by the paediatrician.
Apply a Warm Compress
This can help to soften the duct blocked with oil and cause drainage of the pus. Press a warm, wet compress against the affected area for 15 minutes; repeat this process 4 times a day.
Seek Medical Help
Consult an ophthalmologist if the chalazion doesn’t go away even after a warm compress. 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.
These include fever, runny nose and conjunctivitis.
This is a serious bacterial eye infection in infants which happens when harmful bacteria enter the eye. It can affect one eye or both.
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.
If you see your baby’s eyelids inflamed and his eyes watery, red and irritated, it may be because of blepharitis.
The eyelashes may fall off if another infection happens alongside blepharitis.
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.
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 Ducts
As the name suggests, it happens when the tear ducts are blocked due to fluids and become swollen.
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.
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.
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
Here are some effective home remedies to treat your baby’s eye infection:
- Boil water and place a tea bag in it for a few minutes. Remove the tea bag and wring it to drain out the 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 for relief.
- Breast milk is also a surprisingly effective home remedy as it has antibacterial 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.
- 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 reduces irritation and swelling.
It is extremely important to wash and sanitise your hands before and after touching your infant’s infected eyes.
Of course, the above-mentioned home remedies are effective, but it’s always better to consult your paediatrician when an eye infection develops. During such times, keep your infant away from other children.