How Long Is Pink Eye Contagious? Symptoms Of Conjunctivitis

Pink eye is a common eye disease which in medical parlance is known as conjunctivitis. The inner surface of the eyelid is called conjunctiva and the conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva. Though anyone can suffer from pink eye, it is commonly seen among children. Even if it is annoying and irritating condition, pink eye generally is not a serious illness and recovery is complete.

Conjunctivitis can be infectious and non infectious. Infectious conjunctivitis is caused due to virus or bacteria. Non infectious conjunctivitis is caused due to various allergies and it is called allergic conjunctivitis.

Chemicals, fumes and gases can also cause conjunctivitis, it is called irritant conjunctivitis.

The term pink eye is generally used for infectious conjunctivitis. The infectious organisms are the same viruses and bacteria, which are responsible for common cold and cough. The conjunctiva becomes red and inflamed combined with discharge from the eyes. In bacterial conjunctivitis there is typical white or yellow discharge from the eyes. If the discharge is watery or like tears with redness in both eyes, it is more symptomatic of virus infection. One or both eye can get affected.

What Is The Contagious Period For Pink Eye?

Contagious period for pink eye infection will depend upon if the pink eye is due to virus or bacterial infection.

  • If the cause of pink eye is bacterial infection, the condition is contagious soon after the appearance of the symptoms. It remains contagious as long as there is purulent or white discharge from the eye. Even after starting antibiotic drops it remains contagious for 24 hours.
  • If the cause of conjunctivitis is viral infection, the condition is contagious 1 or 2 days before the appearance of the symptoms and remains infectious till the disease is completely healed. Symptoms of pink eye caused by virus usually clear up within a week.
  • Irritant and allergic conjunctivitis are not contagious.

Symptoms Of Viral And Bacterial Pink Eye

Viral pink eye symptoms are:

  • Redness in the conjunctiva, and the white of the eye.
  • Swelling of the eyelids.
  • Excessive tearing from the eyes.
  • The discharge is transparent.
  • Itching and burning of the eyes.
  • Usually it starts in one eye and the other eye gets infected the next day.

Symptoms of bacterial pink eye:

  • Swelling of the eyelids.
  • Itching and burning in the eyes.
  • Discharge is sticky and thick.
  • Discharge is white or purulent.
  • There may be associated mild pain in the eye.
  • Drainage from the eyes causes the eyelashes to stick.

How Long Is Pink Eye Contagious On Surfaces?

Viral and bacterial pink eye are highly contagious infection. Since there is no treatment for virus pink eye, preventing its spread is very important. Shaking hands with the infected person, sharing towel and eating in common utensils are usual source of spread due to contamination.

Bacteria can survive on some surface objects more than others. It also depends on the temperature, exposure to sunlight, and other factors. According to one survey, Formica furniture and stainless steel surfaces are more likely to become the source of transfer, especially bacteria. It takes almost 2 days to a week for the bacteria on the surface to die off.

Virus can stay longer on the stainless steel surfaces, ceramic surface or Formica. Most of the virus from the surface will die within 2 weeks, provided the surface is not disinfected or exposed to sunlight.

If the cause of pink eye is bacterial infection, it may remain infectious for 24 hours even after taking antibiotics and chances of spread of bacterial conjunctivitis after that period are very less.