Conjunctivitis is an infection or inflammation of the membranes that cover the eye and eyelids. It is common in the newborn period and should be examined by your pediatrician to establish the cause of the infection.

Conjunctivitis is common in childhood as well and is frequently referred to as "pink eye." Redness of the eye, the lids, with swelling and a discharge is usually seen. Often in bacterial infections, the eyelids will be matted and stuck together in the morning, upon awakening. These infections should be seen by your pediatrician and treated with antibiotics. This is not, however, an emergency but a condition that should be attended to promptly during office hours. If, on the other hand, there is much swelling of the lids, redness, discharge and a fever, the infection may have extended deeper into the surrounding tissues and should be seen as soon as possible.

Many conditions, which look similar to bacterial infections of the eyes, are due to viral infections, allergies, foreign particles or other irritants (such as swimming pool water) and do not require antibiotics.

Remember that in the newborn period, many babies will have a condition known as "wet eye." This causes a clear drainage with a small amount of mucous, but little or no redness or swelling of the lids. This is caused by a blockage (usually temporary) of the baby's tear duct and usually is relieved by gentle massage. Do this by placing your little finger on the side of the baby's nose, near the angle of the eye and using a rocking motion with pressure, three times a day. Occasionally, an ophthalmologist will need to see your baby if the condition persists after 12 months of age.