Health A-Z

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For uncomplicated viral conjunctivitis, your doctor may suggest nonprescription eye drops, which relieve eye symptoms while your body fights off the viral infection.

For bacterial conjunctivitis, you'll need prescription ointment or eye drops containing antibiotics (sulfacetamide, erythromycin or others). Use these for as many days as your doctor tells you, even if your symptoms clear up within a day or two. You also can apply warm compresses, such a washcloth, to your eyes for 20- to 30-minute periods, several times a day. Gently wipe away eye discharge and dry, crusty material with a clean, moist cotton ball or tissue.

For allergic conjunctivitis, antihistamine eye drops and cool compresses can help to relieve itching.

Newborns who develop gonorrheal or chlamydial conjunctivitis are treated with antibiotics that can be put on the eye, taken by mouth or injected into a vein, depending on the severity. Their mothers should be examined and treated for gonorrhea or chlamydia infections.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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