Dealing with conjunctivitis: How contagious is pink eye?

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Infections (conjunctivitis)

Conjunctivitis is an infection of the outer wall of the eye. It is also called pink eye. Conjunctivitis can lead to itchy eyes, eye pain, as well as blurry vision. Watch out for these symptoms.

This infection is usually due to a virus but can also be caused by bacteria or some allergies. When caused by bacteria, you may need to use antibiotic eye drops to help treat the infection.

Different types of pink eye can come with slightly different symptoms, but in general, see your doctor when you experience the following issues.

  • pink or red-toned eyes
  • a gritty feeling in your eyes
  • watery or thick discharge that builds up on your eyes at night
  • itchiness in your eyes
  • abnormal amount of tears

Infectious conjunctivitis

Infectious pink eye comes in a few different types, including the following major two types:

  • bacterial
  • viral

Bacterial pink eye: This is due to staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria.

You typically get the above because you touched your eyes with unclean hands, sharing makeup, or having physical contact with someone who may also have conjunctivitis.

Viral pink eye is usually caused by common cold viruses. You may get it if someone with an upper respiratory infection coughs or sneezes close to you. It also happens when you have a cold virus yourself and blow your nose too hard. This can push the infection from your respiratory system to your eyes.

How contagious is pink eye?

Bacterial and viral pink eye are very contagiousTrusted Source.

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Pink eye is very easily spread from person to person. For instance, if someone with viral pink eye touches their eye and then touches your hand, and you touch your eyes, there’s a chance you could get pink eye as well.

Pink eye is typically contagious for as long as the person is having symptoms.

Treatment for pink eye

Treatment of conjunctivitis depends on what’s causing it.

Chemical conjunctivitis

Rinsing your eye with saline is one way to help ease symptoms if you’re dealing with chemical pink eye. Topical steroids may also be prescribed if the case is severe enough.

Bacterial conjunctivitis

For a bacterial infection, antibiotics are the most common method of treatment. Adults usually prefer eye drops. For children, ointment might be a better choice because it’s easier to apply.

With the use of antibiotic medication, your symptoms will probably start to disappear in just a few days — but it’s important to finish your entire prescription to lessen the risk of pink eye coming back.

Viral conjunctivitis

Most of the time, viral conjunctivitis is caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold. These cold viruses don’t currently have any treatments, but symptoms are usually mild and resolve on their own in 7 to 10 days .

In rare cases, other viruses like the herpes simplex or varicella-zoster virus can be involved, which can cause more serious infections. These viruses do have antiviral treatments, but these treatments can only be used for these specific types of viral infections.

In the meantime, using a warm compress, or a cloth moistened with warm water, can help soothe your symptoms.

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Allergic conjunctivitis

To treat pink eye caused by an allergen, your healthcare professional will probably prescribe an antihistamine to stop the inflammation.

Loratadine (Claritin) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) are antihistamines that are available as over-the-counter medications. They may help clear your allergic symptoms, including allergic pink eye. We are not doctors, so check with your doctor for the best medications at any time you develop eye problems.

Other treatments include antihistamine eye drops or anti-inflammatory eye drops.

Home remedies

In addition to using a warm compress, you can also purchase eye drops at your local drugstore that mimic your own tears. These may help relieve your pink eye symptoms.

You may have to stop wearing contact lenses until your pink eye completely clears up.

Prevent conjunctivitis

Practicing good hygiene is one of the best ways to avoid and stop the transmission of conjunctivitis. Take note of the following tips:

  • Avoid touching your eyes with unwashed hands whenever possible.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Only use clean tissues and towels to wipe your face and eyes.
  • Try not to share cosmetics, especially eyeliner or mascara, with others.
  • Wash pillowcases frequently.
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