Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is an eye condition caused by infection or allergies. It usually gets better in a couple of weeks without treatment.

Check if you have conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is also known as red or pink eye.

It usually affects both eyes and makes them:

  • red
  • burn or feel gritty
  • produce pus that sticks to lashes
  • itch
  • water

Find out about other conditions that can cause red eyes

How to treat conjunctivitis yourself

There are things you can do to help ease your symptoms.

  • Boil water and let it cool down before you gently wipe your eyelashes to clean off crusts with a clean cotton wool pad (1 piece for each eye).
  • Hold a cold flannel on your eyes for a few minutes to cool them down.

Do not wear contact lenses until your eyes are better.

Stop infectious conjunctivitis from spreading

Do

  • wash your hands regularly with warm soapy water

  • wash your pillow cases and face cloths in hot water and detergent

  • cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and put used tissues in the bin

Don't

  • do not share towels and pillows

  • do not rub your eyes

You do not need to stay away from work or school unless you or your child are feeling very unwell.

Speak to a pharmacist about conjunctivitis. They can give you advice and suggest eyedrops or antihistamines to help with your symptoms.

If you need treatment for a child under 2, you'll need a prescription from a GP.

Find a pharmacy

See a GP if:

  • your baby has red eyes – get an urgent appointment if your baby is less than 28 days old
  • you wear contact lenses and have conjunctivitis symptoms as well as spots on your eyelids – you might be allergic to the lenses
  • your symptoms have not cleared up after 2 weeks

Get advice from 111 now if you have:

  • pain in your eyes
  • sensitivity to light
  • changes in your vision, like wavy lines or flashing
  • very red eyes (1 eye or both eyes)
  • a baby less than 28 days old with red eyes

These can be signs of a more serious eye problem.

111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Other ways to get help

Get an urgent GP appointment

A GP may be able to help you.

Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.

Treatment from a GP

Treatment will depend on the cause of your conjunctivitis.

If it's a bacterial infection, you might be prescribed antibiotics. But these will not work if it's caused by a virus (viral conjunctivitis) or an allergy.

Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause conjunctivitis. This type takes longer to get better.

[Last reviewed 2021-02-22]
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