Is Pink Eye Contagious?

Pink eye can be viral or bacterial, and both causes are extremely contagious from person to person. It’s important to avoid getting too close to others while sick with pink eye. Be sure to visit AFC Urgent Care Worcester to get the best possible treatment options and resources on managing the symptoms. Our physicians will diagnose and treat all urgent illnesses that are not life-threatening. 

Causes & Symptoms of Pink Eye

Pink eye is most commonly caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungus. These are all common causes of many other illnesses, as well. Certain air pollutants, chemicals, or wearing contact lenses can all cause pink eye, as well. Many symptoms are similar, no matter the cause, so it can be difficult to determine how a patient got pink eye. Pink eye that is caused by allergens or pollutants is not contagious. Viral pink eye is the most infectious, while bacterial can be contagious within specific settings. 

Symptoms of pink eye include:

  • swelling in the white of the eye or eyelid
  • pink or red in the white of the eye
  • itching, irritation, or burning
  • discharge
  • crusting on the eyelids, especially in the morning

Viral pink eye can also have common cold symptoms. Bacterial pink eye is normally the only symptom but is most commonly associated with discharge.

Treatment Options

Viral pink eye does not have available treatment options, but most cases are cleared up within one to two weeks. Antiviral medications can be recommended in severe cases. Bacterial pink eye can be treated with a round of antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. It can also begin to clear up without antibiotics within two to five days but can take a few weeks to truly go away. 

Preventing Pink Eye

Pink eye spreads through close contact with others, touching infected objects and then touching your eyes, or through the air by coughing or sneezing. If you have pink eye, the best ways to prevent spreading it to others include washing your hands with soap and water, especially after applying any eye medications. Avoid touching your eyes completely. When applying medications, use cotton balls and dispose of them properly when you are done. Use different eye drops, one for an infected eye and one for the uninfected eye. Do not wear contact lenses, and wash your glasses, pillowcases, sheets, and washcloths often to avoid contaminating the other eye. 

To avoid getting sick again, or infecting your other eye, be sure to dispose of any makeup brushes, contact lenses, any contact solution your contacts may have touched, and clean the eyeglasses you used while infected.