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How Long is Pink Eye Contagious and How to Prevent Spreading It?

Gina Walters


how long is pink eye contagious

Pink eye (Conjunctivitis) is a common infection that causes itchiness and redness in the white part of your eyes. It is characterized by the inflammation of the membrane that lines the inner eyelid.  

This prevalent condition impacts around 6 million individuals in the United States annually.  

This is because pink eye is extremely contagious and can readily spread from person to person.  

If you have pink eye, it is important to avoid close contact with others until the infection clears up. But, many wonder, “How long is pink eye contagious?”

This article examines the contagiousness of pink eye, its mode of transmission, and measures to prevent its spread.  

How long is pink eye contagious

The contagious period of pink eye depends on its cause. Pink eye can develop due to infections from viruses, bacteria, or allergies. 

Among these, viral pink eye is the most contagious and continues to spread as long as it releases discharge. Bacterial pink eye is also contagious but stops spreading after antibiotics. 

Viral pink eye

Viral pink eye, or Viral Conjunctivitis, is the most prevalent and contagious type of pink eye. It is contagious for about 10 to 14 days.

Infections from viruses, such as adenovirus cause this type of pink eye. These viral infections easily spread from one person to another through direct or indirect contact. 

This infection remains contagious as long as there is pink eye discharge from the infected eye. The eye may continue producing this discharge for up to two weeks.

Explore the various symptoms of viral pink eye with our article: Seeing Red: A Closer Look at Viral Pink Eye Symptoms

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Bacterial pink eye

bacterial-pink-eye-treatmentSource: Syda_productions
Woman suffering from bacterial pink eye

Although infectious, Bacterial Conjunctivitis is typically less contagious than its viral counterpart. It stops spreading after taking antibiotics.

This condition is caused by bacterial infections, which include Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

The infection spreads through direct contact with eye secretions or indirect contact with infected surfaces. 

Typically, bacterial pink eye stops being contagious around 24 hours after antibiotic treatment. 

Know everything about the various symptoms of bacterial pink eye with our article: What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Bacterial Pink Eye?

Allergic pink eye

Allergic Conjunctivitis, caused by allergens like pollen, dust, or pet dander, is not infectious. It occurs due to an allergic reaction rather than infectious agents. 

The symptoms of allergic pink eye can persist if there is continued exposure to allergens.

Want to know the difference between pink eyes and allergies? Read our article: Pink Eye vs Allergies: Know the Difference

To minimize exposure to allergens, consider using air purifiers, keeping windows closed when pollen levels are high, and maintaining a clean living environment.

How to prevent spreading pink eye

rubbing eyes incontentSource: Asia_Images_Group
Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes

While pink eye is highly contagious, you can avoid spreading it to others by following certain preventive measures. 

It is crucial to exercise precaution and protect yourself and others if you have pink eye. Follow these steps to avoid spreading pink eye:

  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes
  • Wash your hands often, especially if you touch your eyes
  • Regularly clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces
  • Use separate towels, pillowcases, and facecloths
  • Avoid sharing personal items like makeup or contact lenses

Recommended read: Learn how pink eye spreads from person to person to help prevent infecting others — How Does Pink Eye Spread? Understanding the Contagious Nature

Complete the full course of any prescribed medication or treatment to ensure complete removal of the infection.

The bottom line

Conjunctivitis is an extremely infectious condition that can easily spread from one individual to another. 

If you suspect you have this condition, you may wonder, “How long is pink eye contagious?” 

The contagious period of this condition depends on the type and cause of pink eye. Viral pink eye is contagious for about 10 to 14 days and usually resolves on its own. 

Without treatment, bacterial pink eye can be contagious for up to two weeks. However, antibiotic treatment can stop the spread of the virus in 24 hours. 

Understanding the contagious period of pink eye is critical for taking precautions and preventing infection in others. 

Seek medical attention if you suspect you have pink eye, especially if your symptoms persist or worsen. 

Recommended read: Learn all about the duration of different pink eye types — How Long Does Pink Eye Last: From Onset to Recovery

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is pink eye contagious after 7 days?

Viral pink eye can be highly contagious for 10 to 14 days. Bacterial pink eye is less contagious, usually clearing up after antibiotic treatment.

How long is pink eye contagious on surfaces?

Pink eye can survive on surfaces for up to 24 hours, but thorough cleaning can help prevent its spread.

How long is pink eye contagious after antibiotics?

Bacterial pink eye becomes non-contagious around 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment.

How long is pink eye contagious without antibiotics?

Without antibiotic treatment, bacterial pink eye can remain contagious for up to two weeks.

How long is pink eye contagious once treated?

With proper treatment, viral pink eye usually becomes non-contagious within a few days to a week.

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