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Lots of babies get watery or sticky eyes. 
This often happens because their tear ducts (the tubes that carry
tears away from the eyes) can be slow to fully develop and
open.  About 1 in 5 babies are born with tear ducts that have
not fully developed, affecting one or both eyes. The condition is
not usually serious. You may have to wipe away some glue-like
material, but your baby’s eyeball should stay healthy and white and
your baby should not be particularly bothered by the condition. The
problem should clear up on its own, but watery eyes may return if
your baby gets a cold as the newly opened tear duct may become
blocked easily. In rare cases, a watering eye in a baby is due to
other eye problems.



The problem will usually go away as soon as your
baby’s tear ducts finish developing. This normally happens within a
few weeks, but it can take several months for some babies. If gluey
material develops then wipe it away with some damp cotton wool,
moistened with sterile water (cool water that has been boiled). It
may help if you massage the tear duct every few hours, using gentle
pressure on the outside of the nose. This may help to clear any
blockage and can help the tear duct to develop.

If the tear duct is still blocked at 12 months,
you should speak to your GP who may refer your baby to an eye
specialist. The specialist may perform a procedure where a very
thin instrument is inserted into the tear duct to open it up. Speak
to your GP sooner if the condition is particularly bad, causes your
baby distress, or if you think there might be something wrong with
your baby’s eye or eyelids.


Things to watch out for

You may see some slight redness of the eyeball due
to mild inflammation, this will not normally need to be treated and
should clear up on it’s own. Sometimes sticky eyes may develop into
conjunctivitis (infection of the eye). The eye may look inflamed
and red and your baby may rub their eyes. Conjunctivitis is not
usually serious, but it is very infectious and needs to be treated
by your GP. Antibiotic eye drops are sometimes prescribed to help
clear conjunctivitis. Wash your hands before and after applying the
eye drops and make sure that you use a different towel for your
baby to avoid spreading the infection.


Choose care at home if…

  • Your baby has sticky or watery eyes
  • Their eyeball is healthy and white
  • They are not particularly bothered by their sticky or watery

Choose your pharmacist or GP

  • Their eye becomes inflamed, angry or red
  • There is yellow or green sticky or crusty discharge around the
    eye that keeps coming back
  • Your baby rubs the eye a lot or seems in pain
  • Your baby does not like to open their eye, or light seems to
    hurt the baby’s eye
  • You think your baby might have conjunctivitis
  • The structure of an eye or eyelids does not seem right

Choose 999 A&E if…

  • There are no reasons why you should need to go to A&E for
    problems with watery or sticky eyes
  • A&E is for urgent, life-threatening illness and injury


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