‘Sticky eyes’ are common in newborn babies and young children while
their tear ducts are developing. You may see some sticky stuff in the
corner of the eyes or their eyelashes may be stuck together.
It normally clears up on its own, but you may have to clean your baby's
eyes regularly with damp cotton wool. Use clean, cooled boiled water.
Wipe each eye from the corner by the nose outwards. Use a clean piece
of cotton wool for each wipe. Remember to wash your hands before and
afterwards and avoid sharing towels to prevent spreading infection.
The signs of ‘sticky eyes’ can sometimes
be confused with an infection called
‘conjunctivitis’ which can be caused by a
virus or a bacteria. With conjunctivitis the
white of the eyes become red and there
is more yellow or green sticky goo which
comes back regularly. If you notice this
and it continues for more than 24 hours,
contact your health visitor or GP as it
sometimes needs treating with antibiotic
drops. This can be passed on easily, so
wash your hands and use a separate
towel for your baby.
Some babies have watering eyes.
Massaging the tear ducts helps to
dislodge tears that have collected
in the upper part of your baby’s
tear duct, as well as encouraging
the tear duct to develop. This can
be done by applying light pressure
with your clean, index finger and
massaging from the outer corner of
your baby’s eye towards their nose.
Repeat several times a day for a
couple of months. If this persists
past one year, your baby should be
referred to an eye specialist for
Source NHS choices
Is there discharge in
the corner of your
baby’s eye and do their
eyelashes appear to be
Sticky eyes is a common
condition that affects
most babies - most
cases do not need
Use cooled boiled water
on a clean piece of
cotton wool for each
Source: DoH 2006.
Babies can see when
they are born but their focusing develops gradually.
Routine eye tests are offered to newborn babies and at the baby
six-week check to identify any problems early on in their
development. Baby’s should fix their parent’s gaze and follow
their faces with their eyes by the age of 2-3 months. However, it is quite normal for the eyes of newborn babies to ‘cross’
(squint) occasionally, particularly when they're tired. Speak to
your GP if you notice this is still happening after three
months of age or is happening most of the time. Left untreated,
lazy eye can develop. Children with a family history (parents or
brothers and sisters) of squint or wearing glasses in childhood
should be referred to an eye clinic (orthoptist) after eight months
Although serious vision problems during childhood are rare, early
testing ensures that any problems are picked up and managed
as early as possible. All children should go to the optician for
annual eye tests from five years of age.
Please see our eye health leaflet for more information.