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Conjunctivitis in babies can cause a variety of symptoms, which may vary depending on the underlying cause of the problem. The most common indication of the condition is reddening of the whites of the eyes, which is why it is commonly known as pink eye. This may affect one eye or both, or it may start in one and then spread to the other. Often, babies' eyes will tear up and water when they have conjunctivitis; they may also have a thick, yellowish discharge from their eyes. Some babies' eyes may become swollen and itchy, and others may have symptoms like a runny nose or coughing.
Reddish, bloodshot eyes are the primary symptom of conjunctivitis in babies, and is common to all forms of the condition. One or both eyes typically develop a pinkish hue in the whites; often the rims of the eyelids become red and inflamed as well. This is due to irritation of the conjunctiva, which is a transparent membrane that lays over the inside of the eyelids and the whites of the eyes.
Discharge from the eyes is a common sign of conjuctivitis in babies. Watering eyes is common to all types of conjunctivitis; some young children's tear drainage passages are not well developed, so some parents may notice tears spilling over their baby's eyelids. If the pink eye is caused by a bacteria like staphylococcus or streptococcus, a yellow, mucous-like discharge may be present. Often a baby's eyelids and lashes will be crusty or stick together due to excessive watering and discharge.
Typically, conjunctivitis in babies is the result of an infection, either bacterial or viral. In cases where a virus is to blame, the pink eye is often accompanied by other symptoms, often similar to a common cold. These can include a runny nose, sneezing, or coughing. Some babies may even develop a fever as their bodies work to fight off the virus.
Allergic conjunctivitis in babies is relatively rare, and may present slightly differently from cases caused by infection. The eyes will tend to be swollen and itchy when allergens are the cause. The baby may also have a runny nose at the same time due to the allergic reaction. These symptoms may persist as long as the baby continues to be exposed to whatever is causing the irritation; there is also a risk that infection will set in if it is allowed to go on for too long.