Have you ever woken with the whites of your eyes tinged with pink? Or a sticky substance coating your lashes? If so, you might have had pink eye.
What is pink eye?
Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is an inflammation of the lining covering much of the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelid (conjunctiva). It is a common, treatable condition that can affect both adults and children.
Pink eye can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, an allergy or an irritant.
Pink eye can affect one or both eyes and usually causes them to:
- become pink
- burn or feel gritty
- secrete a discharge/pus that sticks to the lashes
Pink eye symptoms may clear up on their own.
Is pink eye contagious?
If pink eye is caused by a viral or bacterial infection then it is contagious. It can be transferred through the tiny droplets in your coughs and sneezes, or via materials which come into contact with the infection, like tissues, towels or bedding. Pink eye is usually contagious for as long as you have symptoms.
Wash your hands frequently to avoid infecting others, especially after touching your eyes, and throw away any used tissues immediately.
Pink eye is not always contagious, however. When caused by an allergy like dust, animal dander or pollen, the infection cannot be spread to other people. The same applies if the infection is caused by irritants, like smoke or chlorine. Sometimes it’s not easy to identify the cause of pink eye, so always take steps to minimise the risk of transferring the infection.
If you are concerned about pink eye, see a doctor.
Can I go to work with pink eye?
You don’t need to miss work because of pink eye, but you should practise good hygiene.
There are some instances where it may be better to avoid work to prevent the spread of infection. For example, if you work in close proximity with people, you might want to stay at home until you no longer have symptoms.
When to worry
If you have any of the following symptoms, please seek medical help immediately:
- eye pain
- sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- vision changes (e.g. seeing wavy lines or flashing)
- intense redness in one or both eyes
See a doctor immediately if your symptoms get worse.
Pink eye can be contagious, but as long as you take steps to prevent the spread of infection, going to work should not be a problem in most cases.
However, if you feel too unwell to go to work then there’s nothing wrong in having a day or two at home to rest and recover.
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Mayo Clinic. Pink eye: How long is it contagious?. 2019. Cited 10 May 2019.
Medicalnewstoday.com. How long are you contagious with pink eye?. 2019. Cited 10 May 2019.
Moorfields.nhs.uk. Conjunctivitis - Moorfields Eye Hospital. 2019. Cited 10 May 2019.