How Quickly Can Pink Eye Spread?

How Quickly Can Pink Eye Spread?

In rare cases, pink eye (also called conjunctivitis) isn’t contagious. But that’s only true if you have allergic conjunctivitis. The vast majority of pink eye cases are either bacterial or viral, and that means they’re highly contagious. 

In fact, pink eye can — and often does — spread extremely quickly. That’s why we offer targeted pink eye care here at our Benjamin Optical offices throughout New York City. You or your child are contagious as long as you have symptoms, so starting treatment is the fastest way to limit your risk of spreading it to others.

How pink eye spreads — and fast

It doesn’t take much for pink eye to spread. All you need to do is transfer the bacteria or virus from one person to another. That can happen from touching the person, of course, but it can also be spread by coughing, sneezing, or touching a surface the person with pink eye touched. In fact, both the bacteria and viruses that cause pink eye can live on surfaces for days, if not longer. 

Beyond that, the incubation period for conjunctivitis is short. Most people start to show symptoms within 24-72 hours. 

Long story short, pink eye spreads fast. If you don’t take steps to stop it, it can quickly infect your whole household and anyone who comes into contact with you. 

How to limit the spread of conjunctivitis

For starters, if you think someone in your household has pink eye, visit one of our offices. Our team can diagnose the issue and if it is pink eye, help you find the right treatment. 

That can mean putting a stop to your contagiousness as quickly as possible. If it’s bacterial conjunctivitis, for example, we can prescribe an antibiotic and you can safely go into the world 24 hours after starting it. 

While your household has pink eye symptoms, you should be careful to avoid spreading the infection. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) have some tips to help there. 

First and foremost is frequent hand-washing. This is extra important for kids, who might be tempted to rub their eyes if the pink eye symptoms bother them. The goal is to make sure the virus or bacteria doesn’t go from your eyes to your hands to everything you touch. And that means regularly washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. If a sink isn’t available, hand sanitizer is the next-best option. 

Also, make sure you regularly launder pillowcases, towels, and washcloths. Don’t share these items between family members while the pink eye is in your house. 

For the eye care you or your child needs, call any of our offices or book an appointment online today. 

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