More commonly known as pink eye (for obvious reasons), conjunctivitis occurs when an infection or allergies irritates the conjunctiva. This causes the eye to become red and swollen, and it may produce a sticky discharge. As children head back to school and parents are more concerned than ever about keeping their kids healthy, you might wonder, “Is conjunctivitis contagious?” In some cases, yes. Read on to learn about the different types of conjunctivitis and discover when this condition is contagious.
The Three Main Types of Conjunctivitis
Differing in their causes and symptoms, there are three main types of conjunctivitis: viral, bacterial, and allergic. Let’s quickly review each type:
- Viral Conjunctivitis: The most common type of conjunctivitis, viral pink eye is known for quickly spreading through crowded places like schools. Symptoms include red, burning eyes producing a watery discharge. It is caused by a viral infection.
- Bacterial Conjunctivitis: Also very contagious, bacterial pink eye produces red, sore eyes with sticky pus. It is caused by a bacterial infection.
- Allergic Conjunctivitis: Allergic pink eye produces itchy, red, watery eyes. Sometimes the eyelids become puffy as well. It is caused by an allergic reaction to something.
Your doctor can determine which type of conjunctivitis you have. Some other symptoms of conjunctivitis include a gritty sensation, burning eyes, itchy eyes, painful eyes, watery eyes, puffy eyes, blurry vision, light sensitivity, mucus, pus, and discharge. In some cases, you may also feel like there’s something in your eye.
Is Conjunctivitis Contagious?
Allergic pink eye is not contagious. However, the types of conjunctivitis caused by an infection – viral conjunctivitis and bacterial conjunctivitis – are very contagious. To prevent it from spreading to other people and to avoid reinfecting yourself, follow these tips from the American Academy of Opthalmology:
- Use a clean towel or tissue each time you wipe your face and eyes.
- Wash your hands often, and wash them thoroughly.
- Always wash your hands before and after eating, after using the bathroom, and after sneezing or coughing.
- Avoid touching your eyes. If you need to touch your eyes, wash your hands immediately afterward.
- Do not use eye makeup while your eyes are infected, as the infection may transfer to your makeup. Replace any eye makeup you’ve used while infected. Do not share your eye makeup with others (this is important whether you have pink eye or not).
- Follow your eye doctor’s instructions when it comes to cleaning your contact lenses.
If you’re suffering from conjunctivitis, visit your general physician or eye doctor. Your doctor may be able to prescribe something to limit your discomfort and offer advice to ensure you don’t spread the infection to others.
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