What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is an infection of the membranes that surround your eyeballs. It’s usually caused by a virus or bacteria — but allergies and 'foreign bodies' (grit or dust) can also be blamed. Infective conjunctivitis spreads easily in families (accidentally touching infected eyes and then touching a surface) but can be contained — whereas viral conjunctivitis spreads through the air and is harder to control. (One type of conjunctivitis affects new-borns in particular. This can be serious. See your doctor straight away if you think your baby has it.)

Symptom summary 

  • Crusts around the eyes
  • Red or pink eyes
  • Sticky eyelids
  • Itchy or sore eyes
  • Discharge from the eyes

Prevention tips 

Change the bed! 

Wash your bed sheets, pillowcases, and towels in hot water and detergent to prevent chances of getting reinfected. 

Don’t share! 

This really is a contagious infection — so stop it in its tracks by making sure you and your children don’t share towels, pillows, sunglasses or anything else that comes into contact with your eyes. 

Have a peanut butter sandwich!

Eat foods rich in vitamin D including bread, oats, nuts, spinach and lettuce as they enhance the immune system and make our eyes less vulnerable to infection. 

Stop rubbing!

Conjunctivitis can make your eyes sore and itchy but rubbing or touching your eyes can actually make the infection worse - don’t touch!

Wash your hands!

How many times a day do we absent-mindedly touch our eyes? Hundreds! So improving hand hygiene through regular handwashing with soap, by the whole family, will help stop the spread of conjunctivitis in your home.


I can only catch conjunctivitis from someone else with conjunctivitis…

The same bacteria that gives one person an ear infection or a cold can give another this eye infection! And conjunctivitis caused by allergies or 'foreign bodies' can develop independently. 

Conjunctivitis isn’t contagious if it’s being treated…

Not true! Antibiotics can only fight bacterial conjunctivitis — and even then the drugs don’t immediately stop the bacteria spreading. And if your family has viral conjunctivitis? Then the infection is still hugely contagious!  

Medical source: British health authority



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