Eye - Pus or Drainage  
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Does this describe your child's symptoms?

  • Yellow or green discharge from a bacterial eye infection


  • Yellow or green discharge or pus in the eye
  • Dried pus on the eyelids and eyelashes
  • The eyelashes are especially likely to be stuck (matted) together following sleep
  • The whites of the eye may or may not have some redness or pinkness
  • The eyelids are usually puffy due to irritation from the infection


  • Bacterial infection of the eye, usually on top of a cold in the eye
  • A small amount of pus (or mucus) that’s only present in the corner of the eye is unimportant and usually due to an irritant or virus

Return to School

  • Your child can return to child care or school after using antibiotic eyedrops for 24 hours, if the pus is minimal

If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Eyelid is very red or very swollen
  • Blurred vision reported
  • Eye pain and more than mild
  • Cloudy spot or haziness of the cornea (clear part of the eye)
  • Fever over 104° F (40° C) and not improved 2 hours after fever medicine
  • Age under 12 weeks with fever above 100.4° F (38.0° C) rectally (Caution: Do NOT give your baby any fever medicine before being seen.)
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • Fever returns after gone for over 24 hours
  • Using antibiotic eye drops over 3 days and pus persists
  • Yellow/green discharge or pus in the eye, but none of the symptoms described above (Reason: probably needs prescription antibiotic eyedrops to treat it)
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR PUS IN THE EYE (Pending Talking with Your Doctor)

  1. Reassurance:  
    • Bacterial eye infections are a common complication of a cold.
    • They respond to home treatment with antibiotic eyedrops which require a prescription.
    • They are not harmful to vision.
    • Until you get some antibiotic eyedrops, do the following:
  2. Remove Pus:
    • Remove the dried and liquid pus from the eyelids with warm water and wet cotton balls.
    • Do this whenever pus is seen on the eyelids.
    • Once you have antibiotic eyedrops, they will not work unless the pus is removed each time before they are put in.
  3. Contact Lenses: Children with contact lenses need to switch to glasses temporarily (Reason: to prevent damage to the cornea). Disinfect the contacts before wearing them again (or discard them if disposable).
  4. Contagiousness: Your child can return to child care or school after using antibiotic eyedrops for 24 hours, if the pus is minimal. The antibiotic eyedrops can be used for other family members who develop the same symptoms.
  5. Expected Course: With treatment, the yellow discharge should clear up in 3 days. The red eyes (which are part of the underlying cold) may persist for up to a week.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Eyelid becomes red or swollen
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 8/1/2011

Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.