Red or "dirty" baby's eye

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It can happen that babies and infants of a few months have one or both red or dirty eyes, with whitish secretions, as if mixed. What does it depend on and how to behave? We asked Piercarlo Salari, freelance pediatrician and head of the parenting support working group of the Del Paesena Society of Preventive and Social Pediatrics (SIPPS).

In this article

  • Newborn red eye
  • Dirty baby's eyes

The red eye

What are the causes

"We assume that the little eyes are very delicate and they blush from any irritating factor, including those that might seem harmless in adults, "Salari says, calling into question such factors as:

  • dust, pollen and any small particles that can enter the eye
  • atmospheric agents (wind and and excessive sunlight)
  • small scratches caused by the child himself, who often has sharp claws
  • small rubbing, for example on the sheet

"The tissues of the little eyes of children are very reactive, the eye can quickly redden even disproportionately to the real extent of the small trauma suffered" underlines the doctor. Which also invites us to take into account the fact that "at birth and in the first weeks of life the Tears they are not yet produced, so an important defensive factor is missing, capable of removing corpuscles and fighting bacteria ".

What to do

"First of all don't be scared"reassures Salari." Red eye is a very common occurrence and is very likely to be due to a local irritant factor, especially if only one eye is affected. So there is no need to rush to the pediatrician or to drugs as soon as an eye turns red, nor to use products that may be do-it-yourself ".

Instead, what we need to do is try, as far as possible, to reconstruct how much the redness may have caused, also with a view to prevention. Does the child have long nails? It may have been a scratch, and still it's worth keeping them short and clean at all times. There seems to be a particular reactivity to sunlight? Then you need to pay particular attention to the passages from darker areas to brighter areas and maybe buy a couple of sunglasses for very little ones

Read also: How Do I Trim Newborn's Nails?

When to worry

There are situations in which it is advisable to consult the pediatrician, because they could be an expression of an infection in progress, and that is when the red eye is accompanied by:

  • really significant redness, "on"
  • secretions of intense yellow color and creamy consistency
  • swelling of the eyelids
  • incessant tearing (for babies who have already started tearing)
  • strong photophobia (light discomfort)
  • irritability
  • known contacts with other children with infectious conjunctivitis

Antibiotic therapy in case of conjunctivitis

There are various types of infectious conjunctivitis, some of viral origin and others of bacterial origin. The pediatrician will assess the situation and decide how to proceed: in some cases the indication will be to protect both eyes (even if only one is affected) with an eye drops or antibiotic-based ophthalmic ointment. Depending on the products, two / three applications per day or only one will be needed.

"Attention - warns Salari - even if a rapid improvement is observed and the symptoms regress quickly, antibiotic-based therapy should be continued for at least five to seven days (even for ten in the case of more demanding conjunctivitis), to obtain the maximum eradication of the responsible microorganisms ".

It should also be remembered that antibiotic ointments and eye drops expire 30 days after opening. If after a couple of months from an episode another should occur, a new product, not yet open, must be used

Also read: When to give antibiotics to children

The dirty little eye

Another common occurrence in the eyes of newborns and infants is the presence of whitish or pale yellow discharge, even slightly crostified, especially in the morning upon awakening. In practice, the eyelids seem to be glued together by a thin film, which then fragments into small crusts.

Depends on what

Also in this case do not worry: this "kneading" depends on a precise anatomical condition and that is the fact that the nasolacrimal duct is not necessarily open yet, a small duct that allows tears to drain by connecting the cavity of the orbit with the nasal cavity.

What to do

"Nothing special, if not keep the eyes clean with special solutions, which reproduce the hypertonic nature of tears "explains Salari. Within a few days or weeks the duct usually opens on its own. If this does not happen, as the months go by (even around the fifth-sixth month) that the eye is always wet or the tears often flow on their own. "If this happens, within 7-8 months of the child's life, the pediatrician prescribes a pediatric ophthalmic examination with explicit request of probing of the nasolacrimal duct. The specialist identifies the opening of the duct and with a small painless maneuver, which consists in the insertion of a very thin probe, causes the duct itself to open. In most cases, a single 'intervention' is enough to obtain the result ".

How to wash the eyes

"Children's eyes are very delicate and have an extremely absorbent surface. For this reason, particular attention should be paid to what you put on them, avoiding do-it-yourself in the case of drugs and choosing specific products for washing "warns Salari. So no to grandma's remedies like compresses with chamomile or boric acid, but not even the use of non-specific detergents for the eye and for children (soap or shower gel for adults, herbal remedies that are not certified phytotherapy).

What to use, then, to wash the eyes in the newborn?

"Since tears are hypertonic, the ideal solution for washing the eyes should respect their higher salt concentration. In the pharmacy there are specific products in this sense.physiological olution"advises the pediatrician. That suggests getting in the habit of a daily washing: just instill the specific detergent solution and pat dry very gently with a soft towel.

Read also: How to do nasal washes for babies and children

  • child's agenda
  • newborn 4-8 months
  • newborn red eye
  • little red and dirty eye
  • eyes
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