Home EyeIs Pink Eye Airborne Is Pink Eye Airborne, Contagious and for How Long is Pink Eye Contagious and Airborne?

Is Pink Eye Airborne, Contagious and for How Long is Pink Eye Contagious and Airborne?

by Dr. Joe Morales

Is pink eye contagious or can it be transmitted to dogs and humans via air? Pink eye can cause mild to severe symptoms which include redness, tearing and discharge. These may be accompanied by a burning sensation and a gritty feeling. To understand the condition better, we explore questions such as is pink eye airborne contagious? How long is pink eye contagious? We also delve into the extent of communicability of viral and allergic pink eye.

Is Pink Eye Airborne Contagious?

A pink eye is medically referred to as conjunctivitis. It is an infection that affects the conjunctiva. This is the eye’s protective membrane which covers the interlining of the eyelids as well as the eyeballs. The condition can be caused by viruses, bacteria or even allergens. Depending on how your eyes feel, you can tell what type of pink eye you are having.

Is pink eye airborne and contagious

Is pink eye airborne and contagious?

  • With bacterial conjunctivitis, you will experience a thick sticky discharge. This will at times be greenish in color.
  • A viral pink eye comes with a light discharge accompanied by excessive watering.

With these two being the most common types of the infection, the question “is pink eye airborne or contagious?” becomes inevitable. Conjunctivitis can be easily passed on from one person to another through things such as eye makeup, towels, the hands, exposure to irritants and allergens.

The bacterial and viral types are quite contagious as they are caused by airborne organisms. You can contract it from other people through coughing, touch or sneezing. This makes it quite common in children when compared to adults.

When you sneeze or cough, little droplets of saliva are sprayed into the air. This makes pink eye communicable through the air since each of the droplets let out when a person suffering a cold sneezes or coughs contains the causative micro-organisms. This way other people who breathe them in get infected.

Whether pink eye is contagious by kissing depends on a number of factors including how you do it. By wet kissing, you could get the virus responsible for pink eye from a person by mouth.

Where you get into contact with an infected person’s eye due to the faces being up against each other, it is very possible to get infected. Coming into contact with fluids from the infected eye during the process also increases the chances of getting it.

For appropriate medication to be administered, the doctor could ask questions, examine the eyes and where necessary collect a sample for analysis. Where the pink eye could be caused by bacterial infection, an ointment or antibiotic drops may be offered as treatment. Those who are affected will need to be excluded from school if they are kids or work for grownups to avoid passing it on.

How Long Is Pink Eye Contagious?

Another relevant question concerning pink eye is for how long is pink eye contagious? The communicability duration of conjunctivitis depends on whether it is viral or bacterial. The incubation period for bacterial pink eye is 24-72 hours.

The contagious period is usually the time of active infection when the symptoms are clearly visible. Before the symptoms appear, the bacteria cannot be passed on to other people.

The infection remains contagious for as long as there is some discharge from the eye which could be a few days. It however ceases to be after 24hours of being on antibiotics treatment or after eye drops administration even when the symptoms have not cleared up. This though is different with a viral pink eye as will be seen later on in this article.

To keep others safe and avoid passing this and other infections to other people, it is best to resume your day to day work or school activities only after the symptoms of the pink eye have cleared up.  Some institutions will require that a kid resumes 24 hours after treatment has been initiated.

To further minimize the spreading, it will be necessary to observe proper hygiene. When you have a cold, ensure that you always cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Also ensure that your hands are thoroughly cleaned after that. For convenience, you can have your hands and dirty surfaces cleaned with anti-bacterial wipes when you are on the go to avoid catching germs on surfaces.

How Long is Viral Pink Eye Contagious?

Viral conjunctivitis is a little different from bacterial conjunctivitis. It is common and can easily spread to other people through a history of exposure to someone with the virus causing it. This can occur through contact with the conjunctiva discharge of infected persons. The upper respiratory system can also be another means of contracting it through coughs, sneezing and runny noses.

In some cases though, the source of the virus may not be as certain. The virus can cause pink eye in a person who has it elsewhere in the body and there is contact from that place to the eyes. The rubeola virus which is known to cause measles can cause conjunctivitis and remains contagious for up to two weeks.

Adenoviruses on the other hand are very common in water sources that are not chlorinated as well as in dirty pools. This makes it necessary to use swim goggles and masks with a seal to prevent exposure of the eyes to the virus.

The incubation period for viral pink eye is longer than that of the bacterial type as it lasts between five to twelve days. Within this time, there are no visible symptoms of the infection but the virus is communicable. After the symptoms become visible, it takes up to two weeks for the eye to clear. The patient may feel their worst from the fourth to the sixth day after which the symptoms start fading away. All through this time, the infection remains contagious.

With viral conjunctivitis, there isn’t much intervention that can be done. Since the virus is self-limited it tends to clear up on its own and the symptoms can start improving after the fifth day. The use of antibiotics therefore does not help in alleviating the symptoms of this type of infection. However, a doctor can offer them to prevent opportunistic bacterial conjunctivitis infection.

To cool down the effects of this viral infection, you can make use of eye drops to alleviate the symptoms. These will go a long way in keeping your eyes well lubricated. This will help reduce irritation. Using vasoconstrictors can as well help to reduce redness.

Is Allergic Pink Eye Contagious and Airborne?

Allergic conjunctivitis normally affects both eyes and will cause itching, redness and excessive tearing. It occurs as a reaction to allergens. While some of the allergens such as pollen may be airborne, allergic pink eye is not contagious. It will only affect persons who are sensitive to the things causing it.

Allergic pink eye can be contagious

Allergic pink eye can be contagious

The symptoms of the condition may be perennial due to consistent exposure to allergens such as animal dander, dust mite, mold and specific foods. Others will only be seasonal where the cause is airborne allergens such as pollen. With this kind, the possibility of getting a pink eye will depend on the season and the weather where it worsens when it is hot and windy and there is excessive presence of the given allergen.

The treatment of this type of conjunctivitis is determined by its severity. Removal, avoidance and minimization of the allergens will go a long way in easing the condition.  Keep openings closed when there is a high pollen count in your area. Vacuum and dust your home regularly to ensure that it is free from allergens. Also employ any other measures that you feel will help you stay away from the causes.


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DAN Jun 9, 2020 - 8:12 pm

I was visiting my neighbor the other day and was told that his little boy had Pink Eye. As I recalled my own childhood, I don’t remember ever having Pink Eye, so I decided to do some research on the disease. I was surprised to discover that it can infect all age groups and in rare cases, even be deadly. I decided to keep my distance, just in case I might be able to contact the ailment. Furthermore, I learned that there are full face masks that slide over your head and cover your entire head. While they’re effective, it’s suggested that you not wear them while driving a car since you aren’t able to see with it on. They also tend to be uncomfortable since all of your breathing is contained within the mask, so essentially you’re breathing what quickly becomes hot, stale air. One article I read said there have been some people who have died from asphyxiation due to wearing the mask for extended periods of time. Should you feel compelled to wear one, I would suggest that when entering a store, announce in a loud voice,”This is not a holdup. I have Pink Eye!”