Conjunctivitis (sometimes known as pink eye) affects both the inner lining and the outer eyelids in the form of swelling and inflammation.

It can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection and is particularly common in children, the elderly and contact lens wearers.

Causes of Conjunctivitis

Other reasons a person may get Conjunctivitis may be due to:

  • An allergic reaction to pollen or dust mites – ‘Allergic Conjunctivitis’
  • Fragments or other harmful products such as shampoo entering the eye, within day-to-day life. This is known as ‘Irritant Conjunctivitis”

Please remember that Conjunctivitis is very contagious so never share medication and maintain good hand hygiene at all times.

Read more about Conjunctivitis here

Video supporT


The following symptoms often occur: 

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Watery or sticky discharge

Learn more about the symptoms of Conjunctivitis here

When to see a Doctor

Often, you will not need to see a doctor for treatment as Conjunctivitis normally clears up on it’s own, with some self-care.

The only time you will see a doctor is if the infection is particularly severe or if you think it may be related to a sexually transmitted disease. It is also important to see a doctor if you think your new born baby may have conjunctivitis as this can relate to post-delivery infections issues. 

Self care

The following types of self-care can really help to clear up a case of Conjunctivitis, in many cases: 

  • If you are a contact lens wearer, remove them and do not wear them again until your eyes are fully recovered.
  • Use saline/sterile water or other types of over the counter eye drops to aid with lubrication of the eye. If eyes are dry this can encourage Conjunctivitis, and make it worse.
  • Always wash your hands regularly to prevent the spread of any further germs to the eye area.

If you have ‘Allergic Conjunctivitis’ you can use antihistamines to control symptoms. Click here to learn more about antihistamines.

Types of treatment – if required

When medical treatment is required (in severe cases), this involves the use of antibiotics, which would need to be prescribed by your GP or obtained via a pharmacist. These come in the form of a drop, or an ointment, which can be the more favorable choice for use in children as it’s easier to administer.

If symptoms do not clear up within a week, we recommend that you see your GP.

Read more about treatment for Conjunctivitis here.

Word from our GP

  It’s really helpful and will aid a speedy recovery if you bathe your eyes regularly with cool, boiled water.
Remember to use different pieces of cotton wool for each eye, and don’t ‘double-wipe’. Make sure the water is cool enough so you don’t burn yourself!

Dr Neil Geraghty, Oak Tree Surgery

Read our coffee break interview with Dr Geraghty on Conjunctivitis here.

Things to Remember

  • If you suspect your newborn baby (4 weeks old or less) has Conjunctivitis you should visit your GP immediately
  • If you wear contact lenses and you think you may have Conjunctivitis, stop wearing them and seek advice

  Conjunctivitis is highly contagious so be aware and maintain good hand health