Conjunctivitis is an eye condition caused by infection or allergies. It usually gets better in a couple of weeks without treatment.
Check if you have conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is also known as red or pink eye.
It usually affects both eyes and makes them:
- burn or feel gritty
- produce pus that sticks to lashes
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 (1 piece for each eye). Boil water and then let it cool down before you:
- gently rub your eyelashes to clean off crusts
- hold a cold flannel on your eyes for a few minutes to cool them down
Do not wear contact lenses until your eyes are better.
Stop infectious conjunctivitis from spreading
- wash hands regularly with warm soapy water
- wash pillows and face cloths in hot water and detergent
- do not share towels and pillows
- do not rub your eyes
Staying away from work or school
You do not need to avoid work or school unless you or your child are feeling very unwell.
A pharmacist can help with conjunctivitis
Speak to a pharmacist about conjunctivitis. They can give you advice and suggest eyedrops or antihistamines to help with your symptoms.
Non-urgent advice: 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 have conjunctivitis symptoms as well as spots on your eyelids – you might be allergic to the lenses
- your symptoms have not cleared up after 2 weeks
Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if you have:
- pain in your eyes
- sensitivity to light
- changes in your vision, like wavy lines or flashing
- intense redness in 1 eye or both eyes
These can be signs of a more serious eye problem.
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Other ways to get help
Get an urgent GP appointment
A GP may be able to help you.
Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.
Treatment from a GP
Treatment will depend on the cause of your conjunctivitis.
If it's a bacterial infection you might be prescribed antibiotics. But these will not work if it's caused by a virus (viral conjunctivitis) or an allergy.
Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause conjunctivitis. This type takes longer to clear up.
Page last reviewed: 9 January 2018
Next review due: 9 January 2021