How to Avoid Spreading Pink Eye.
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A woman wearing a yellow sweater puts drops in her eyes.

Kids who attend public schools in the U.S. collectively miss nearly 3 million days of school every year because of pink eye, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While it can spread quickly from person to person, especially among children, there are ways you can avoid spreading pink eye—or prevent it altogether.

Nearly 3 million cases of #PinkEye are reported each year in the U.S. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, family medicine physician Dr. Bhogal shares how you can prevent the spread of pink eye if you or your kids have it:

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What is pink eye?

Just like it sounds, pink eye is an eye condition that causes the whites of the eyes to turn red or pink. Pink eye is also known as conjunctivitis because the pinkish color is a result of an inflamed membrane that lines the eyelid and whites of the eyes, called the conjunctiva.

Typically, pink eye symptoms include:

  • Redness in the whites of your eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye swelling
  • An itchy, irritated, or burning feeling in the eyes
  • Eye discharge that results in crust between the eyelids or lashes

How is pink eye spread?

There are four different causes of pink eye, including:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Irritants, such as fumes, chemicals, dust, or smoke
  • Allergens, including mold, pollen, or pet dander

However, viral and bacterial pink eye are the only types of conjunctivitis that are contagious. Unlike irritants or allergens which can cause pink eye as a result of environmental factors, viral or bacterial pink eye is easily spread through direct contact with infected people or surfaces. That’s why it’s important to understand how to avoid spreading pink eye if you or your child have it.

6 ways to avoid spreading pink eye.

1. Wash your hands often.
Frequently washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent illness of any kind. The same principle applies to avoid spreading pink eye, too. Because pink eye is easily spread through contact with an infected surface or person, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds each time is the best way to avoid spreading pink eye to those around you.

Regular hand soap is strong enough to keep the virus or bacteria from spreading. In fact, antibacterial soap doesn’t offer any additional protection. Alcohol-based soap is also a good option, and you can even do a combination of washing with regular hand soap and alcohol-based soap.

2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
If you have pink eye, try not to rub or touch your eyes. You should also try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth if you know someone around you has pink eye. Be sure to wash your hands before and after touching your face.

3. Don’t share towels, sheets, or pillows.
Avoid sharing items that you use on your face, including pillowcases, washcloths, and sheets, as they can carry the virus or bacteria. Be sure to promptly wash any linens that have been used by someone with pink eye.

4. If you wear contacts, switch to glasses until pink eye clears up.
If you wear contact lenses, consider wearing glasses until your eyes heal to avoid spreading pink eye and also prevent it from coming back. In fact, it’s a good idea to throw away any contact lenses you wear or contact solution you use while you have pink eye.

5. Don’t share eye makeup.
Since eye makeup comes into close contact with your eyes, avoid sharing mascara, eyeliner, or eyeshadow with those around you. You may even want to throw away old makeup so that you don’t reinfect your eyes when they’re starting to heal.

6. Just stay home.
Since pink eye is so contagious, it’s best to stay home from school or work when you have pink eye—at least until any eye discharge clears up. If you’re able to work remotely, that’s a great way to avoid spreading pink eye in the office.

If your pink eye isn’t clearing up on its own, you can seek medical care from your home using eVisit. This ensures you can talk to a doctor and get prescription eye drops to help relieve pink eye without the risk of exposing others in the doctor’s office. Using eVisit, you can talk to a doctor 24/7, 365 days a year—and you don’t need an appointment.


When and where should I seek pink eye treatment?

While most pink eyes typically clear up on their own, you may need to see a doctor if your symptoms are severe or impacting your daily life.

Whether you suspect pink eye or something else, talk to a doctor if you are experiencing any of the following in one or both of your eyes:

  • Pain
  • Pressure
  • Feeling or something in the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty seeing or blurred vision
  • Redness in the whites of your eyes

Get the care you need, now.

It’s important that you don’t delay your medical needs or ignore symptoms that would typically make you seek care. Early detection and treatment improve our ability to provide the most comprehensive and effective care.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached our region, MedStar Health has made innovations to ensure we are still the best and safest place to receive care.

We have worked hard to make sure we can provide the care you need in the most appropriate and safe setting. MedStar Health Video Visits are still options for a variety of appointment needs, but in some cases, an in-person visit may be best. We’re here to help you get the right care that reflects your needs and comfort level.

We’re open and prepared to safely offer the same high-quality care you expect from MedStar Health, when you are ready to see us.

Find care now.
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