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Is Pink Eye Contagious – All You Need to Know

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Caused due to the inflammation in the conjunctiva, pink eye or Conjunctivitis affects around 6 million people in the US annually.

This inflammation in the conjunctiva is caused due to viruses, bacteria, or irritants.

Both viruses and bacteria are known to spread quickly among people, increasing the chances of getting affected.

Therefore, it becomes important to know- is pink eye contagious? And how long is pink eye contagious?

Let us explore the answers to these questions in this article and some prevention tips for pink eye.

Is Pink Eye Contagious

Yes, pink eye or Conjunctivitis is contagious.

Conjunctivitis caused by viruses or bacteria is extremely contagious.

However, if the cause of pink eye is allergens such as pollen or dust, it is usually not contagious.

A person with pink eye can spread the infection as long as the symptoms last.

Pink eye might also be contagious even before an individual starts observing any noticeable symptoms.

This is because the virus or bacteria responsible for pink eye may take some time to show observable signs but still might pass to other individuals during physical contact. 

Therefore, it is vital to contact a doctor immediately for pink eye treatment to manage the symptoms.

Depending on your condition, they may prescribe pink eye medications like Antibiotic eye drops, pills, or ointments.

Antibiotics are effective eye drops for pink eye to manage bacterial pink eye symptoms.

Do you want to know how antibiotics help with pink eye? Read Understanding Pink Eye Antibiotics: Treatment Options and Guidelines.

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  • How Does Pink Eye Spread

    Try to avoid using contact lensesSource: FabrikaCR_from_Getty_Images
    Try to avoid using contact lenses

    Pink eye spreads through direct physical contact among people.

    For a person to get infected with pink eye, the virus or bacteria needs to enter the eyes.

    This may happen in the following ways:

    • Close contact with an infected person – this includes hugging, shaking hands, or touching the affected person
    • Contact with contaminated surfaces or things
    • Wearing contaminated contact lenses
    • Touching your eyes during or after sexual contact with an individual infected with a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)

    For detailed explanation about the spreading of pink eye, read Understanding the Transmission of pink eye: How does Pink Eye Spread

    How Long Does Pink Eye Stay Contagious

    Bacterial pink eye is contagious as long as the symptoms last. 

    However, after taking Antibiotics, it is pink eye is only contagious for about 24 – 48 hours.

    Therefore, antibiotics are considered an effective bacterial pink eye treatment.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that bacterial pink eye may take about two weeks to go away completely.

    Although viral pink eye remains contagious as long as the symptoms last, it may also spread before the symptoms begin to show.

    According to studies, viral pink eye may be highly contagious for about 10-14 days and might take around 30 days to disappear completely.

    To learn more about the differences between viral and bacterial pink eye, read Viral vs Bacterial Pink Eye

    If bacterial pink eye is left untreated, it may lead to complications such as Bacterial Keratitis. It is a painful corneal infection that can potentially cause vision loss.

    How to Prevent Pink Eye from Spreading

    Consult a doctor to seek proper treatmentSource: 89Stocker
    Consult a doctor to seek proper treatment

    Although pink eye is highly contagious, the spreading of this infection is preventable.

    Keeping a safe distance, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding touching your eyes are some common measures that may prevent pink eye from spreading.

    Let us explore how can you prevent pink eye from spreading.

    If You Have Pink Eye

    • Avoid touching your eyes 
    • Stay at a safe distance from uninfected individuals until your symptoms are treated completely
    • Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap for atleast 20 seconds
    • Clean any discharge from your eyes with a soft cotton ball and wash your hands immediately
    • Avoid sharing personal belongings like towels and linens
    • Stop wearing contact lenses until your doctor ensures the infection has cleared

    If Someone Around You Has Pink Eye

    • Avoid all kinds of direct contact with the infected person
    • Wash your hands frequently 
    • Avoid touching your eyes, especially with unwashed hands
    • Avoid sharing surfaces or things with the affected person

    However, if you get any symptoms due to an encounter with any infected person, seek medical care immediately to receive proper treatment.

    To know about the treatment options for pink eye in detail, read Pink Eye Treatment: Treating Conjunctivitis Effectively.

    If you were affected with pink eye, it is best to discard eye makeup like mascara and eyeliners used during that period to prevent reinfection.


    Pink eye is an eye infection that may be caused by viruses, bacteria, or allergens.

    But is pink eye contagious?

    Yes, pink eye is highly contagious, except when caused by allergens.

    The virus or bacteria spreads through physical contact, such as hugging or shaking hands.

    Bacterial pink eye can spread while you have symptoms, but it often gets better with antibiotics. On the other hand, viral pink eye is highly contagious as long as you’re experiencing symptoms.

    To prevent pink eye from spreading, avoid direct contact with an affected person.

    Wash your hands frequently and keep them away from your eyes.

    It is best to consult a doctor when you notice any pink eye symptoms.

    Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor will recommend appropriate treatment methods.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can pink eyes spread by looking?

    No, pink eyes cannot be spread only by looking around. The spreading of pink eye virus or bacteria requires direct contact. Yet, it is advised to stay at a safe distance from individuals affected with pink eyes and follow appropriate preventive measures to avoid getting infected.

    When is pink eye not contagious?

    If allergies cause the pink eye, it is usually not contagious. For viral or bacterial pink eye, the infection usually does not spread once the symptoms are gone. However, it is best to check with your doctor to be sure the infection is fully cleared.

    Is viral pink eye contagious?

    Yes, pink eyes caused by viruses such as herpes or varicella-zoster are contagious for as long as the symptoms last. It may also be contagious even before individuals notice any symptoms.

    How long is pink eye contagious after Antibiotics?

    Pink eyes caused by bacteria may remain contagious for about 24 – 48 hours after taking Antibiotics. However, it is recommended to discuss this with your doctor to ensure the clearance of the infection.

    Can I hug a person with pink eyes?

    No, you should avoid all kinds of physical contact with a person affected by pink eyes. The infection can spread through direct contact. Therefore, it is best to keep a safe distance and avoid touching an infected person.

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    Photo of author Janet Fudge
    Janet Fudge is a highly skilled and experienced pharmacologist who serves as a contributing writer for With a strong academic background from a premier US University and a passion for helping others, Janet has become a trusted voice in the pharmaceutical world. After completing her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Janet embarked on a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, working with various clients, including hospitals, retail pharmacies, and drug manufacturers. Her in-depth knowledge of pharmacology and dedication to patient-centered care has led her to excel in her field. As a writer for, Janet uses her wealth of expertise to provide readers with accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on various topics related to medicine and healthcare. Her engaging writing style and ability to break down complex topics into easily digestible content make her a valuable resource for healthcare professionals and the general public.
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