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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
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Eye Infection with Pus (Bacterial)


  • yellow discharge in the eye
  • eyelids stuck together with pus, especially after sleeping
  • dried eye discharge on the upper cheek
  • white part of eyes may or may not have some redness or pinkness
  • eyelids usually puffy due to irritation from the infection.

This condition is also called bacterial conjunctivitis, runny eyes, or mattery eyes.

Note: A small amount of cream-colored mucus in the inner corner of the eyes after sleeping is normal.


Eye infections with pus are caused by bacteria and can be a complication of a cold. Pink eyes without a yellow discharge, however, are more common and are due to a virus.


With proper treatment the yellow discharge should clear up in 72 hours. The red eyes (which are due to the cold) may persist for several more days.


  1. Cleaning the eye

    Before putting in any medicines, remove all the pus from the eye with warm water and wet cotton balls. Unless this is done, the medicine will not have a chance to work.

  2. Antibiotic eyedrops or ointments

Bacterial conjunctivitis must be treated with an antibiotic eye medicine prescribed by your child's physician.

Putting eyedrops or ointment in the eyes of young children can be a real battle. Ideally it's done with two adults. One person can hold the child still while the other person opens the eyelids with one hand and puts in the medicine with the other. One person can do it alone if she sits on the floor holding the child's head (face up) between the knees to free both hands to put in the medication.

If your physician has prescribed antibiotic eyedrops, put two drops in each eye every 2 hours while your child is awake. Do this by gently pulling down on the lower lid and placing the drops there. As soon as the eyedrops have been put in the eyes, have your child close them for 2 minutes so the eyedrops will stay inside. If it is difficult to separate your child's eyelids, put the eyedrops over the inner corner of the eye while he is lying down. When your child opens his eye and blinks, the eyedrops will flow in. Continue the eyedrops until your child has awakened two mornings in a row without any pus in the eyes.

If your physician has prescribed antibiotic eye ointment, the ointment needs to be used just four times a day because it can remain in the eyes longer than eyedrops. Separate the eyelids and put in a ribbon of ointment along the lower eyelid from one corner of the eye to the other. If it is very difficult to separate your child's eyelids, put the ointment on the edges of the eyelids. As the ointment melts from body heat, it will flow onto the eyeball. Continue until two mornings have passed without any pus in the eye.

  1. Contact lenses

    Children with contact lenses need to switch to glasses temporarily. This will prevent damage to the cornea.

  2. Contagiousness

    The pus from the eyes can cause eye infections in other people if they get some of it on their eyes. Therefore, it is very important for the sick child to have his own washcloth and towel. He should be encouraged not to touch or rub his eyes because it can make his infection last longer. Touching his eyes also puts a lot of germs on his fingers. Your child's hands should be washed often to prevent spreading the infection.

    After using eyedrops for 24 hours, and if the pus is minimal, children can return to day care or school.


  • The outer eyelids become very red or swollen.
  • The vision becomes blurred.
  • Your child starts acting very sick.


  • The infection isn't cleared up after 3 days of treatment.
  • Your child develops an earache.
  • You have other concerns or questions.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems