Conjunctivitis is an eye condition caused by infection or allergies. It usually gets better without treatment in a couple of weeks.

Check if you have conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is also known as red or pink eye.

It usually affects both eyes and makes them:

  • bloodshot
  • burn or feel gritty
  • produce pus that sticks to lashes
  • itch
  • water

If you’re not sure it’s conjunctivitis

Other conditions can cause red eyes.

How to treat conjunctivitis yourself

There are things you can do to help ease your symptoms.

Use clean cotton wool (one piece for each eye). Boil water and then let it cool down before you:

  • clean off crusts on your lashes by rubbing them gently
  • make a cold compress to press on your eyes for a few minutes to cool them down

Stop infectious conjunctivitis from spreading


  • wash hands regularly with warm soapy water
  • wash pillows and face cloths in hot water and detergent


  • wear contact lenses until your eyes are better
  • share towels and pillows
  • rub your eyes

Staying away from work or school

You don’t need to avoid work or school unless you or your child are feeling very unwell.

If there are a few children with conjunctivitis at your child’s school you might be asked to keep yours at home.

A pharmacist can help with conjunctivitis

Speak to a pharmacist about conjunctivitis. They can give you advice and suggest eye drops or antihistamines to help with your symptoms.

See a GP if:

  • your baby has red eyes - get an urgent appointment if your baby is less than 28 days old

  • you wear contact lenses and you have conjunctivitis symptoms as well as spots on your eyelids - you might be allergic to the lenses

  • your symptoms haven’t cleared up after 2 weeks

Treatment from your GP

Treatment will depend on what caused your conjunctivitis. If it’s a bacterial infection you might be prescribed antibiotics, but they won’t work if it’s caused by a virus (viral conjunctivitis) or by an allergy.

Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause conjunctivitis which takes longer to clear up.

See a GP urgently or go to A&E if you have:

  • pain in your eyes
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • changes in your vision, such as wavy lines or flashing
  • intense redness in one eye or both eyes

These can be signs of a more serious eye problem.

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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