How Long Is Pink Eye Contagious?

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What Is Pink Eye?

  • Also known as conjunctivitis, pink eye's itching, redness and inflammation is most often due to a bacterial or viral infection or an allergic reaction. Pink eye is highly contagious when caused by bacteria or viruses and can be spread through coughing, sneezing, coming in contact with anything the person has touched and even swimming in the same pool as a person with pink eye.

    For these reasons, it's important to be aware of how long to keep away from the public to avoid spreading pink eye. Typically the amount of time it takes for pink eye to not be contagious depends on the type of infection.

Bacterial Infection

  • Bacterial infections can typically be treated with an antibiotic eye drop or ointment. Once a person starts treatment for bacterial pink eye and begins to see improvement in symptoms, the person is no longer contagious. This process typically takes 24 hours from first using treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, if the symptoms do not improve, the symptoms may have another cause, such as a viral infection, and the person should wait to resume normal activities, such as going to work or school.

Viral Infection

  • Viral infections have no cure, so treatments for this (such as numbing eye drops) are designed to make the patient more comfortable. Viral infections can take up to 14 days to no longer be contagious, according to kids.emedtv.com. As a general rule, when a person starts experiencing an improvement in symptoms, such as the eye no longer tears or produces other matter, the person is no longer contagious.

    Those with viral infections usually experience symptoms relief within three to seven days of symptom onset, according to the Mayo Clinic. In the meantime, practicing good hygiene, such as washing your hands each time after touching the eye and disinfecting any areas you may have touched.

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