If you touch something with the virus or bacteria on it, and then touch your eyes, you can develop pink eye. Most bacteria can survive on a surface for up to eight hours, though some can live for a few days.
The virus can be survive on surfaces for up to two weeks. To help prevent the spread of infection: Avoid touching your eyes with your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
Do not use the same eye drop dispenser/bottle for your infected and non-infected eyes. Wash pillowcases, sheets, washcloths, and towels often in hot water and detergent; wash your hands after handling such items. Stop wearing contact lenses until your eye doctor says it's okay to start wearing them again.
3. Don't share towels, sheets, or pillows. Avoid sharing items that you use on your face, including pillowcases, washcloths, and sheets, as they can carry the virus or bacteria. Be sure to promptly wash any linens that have been used by someone with pink eye.
Wash Sheets and Linens
Sleeping on the same bacteria filled pillowcase every night can only cause you severe problems— like pink eye. As one of the first steps you should take when discovering that either yourself or your child has pink eye is to wash all of your sheets and linens in hot water.
Don't share towels or bedding
When someone in your household contracts pink eye, avoid sharing towels and bedding. It's also important to launder washcloths, hand towels, and bath towels frequently in hot water.
Pinkeye that's caused by bacteria can spread to others as soon as symptoms appear and for as long as there's discharge from the eye — or until 24 hours after antibiotics are started. Conjunctivitis that's caused by a virus is generally contagious before symptoms appear and can remain so as long as the symptoms last.
You can get pink eye by touching an infected person or something an infected person has touched, such as a used tissue, towel, washcloth, or other item that comes into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Similar to bacterial pink eye, viral pink eye can be spread through hand-to-eye contact or by touching objects that that are contaminated with the virus. To avoid spreading this virus, avoid touching your eyes, but if you do, wash your hands immediately.
Bacterial pink eye requires antibiotics to treat correctly. Take the whole course of antibiotics (these are usually eye drops), throw out any eye makeup or contacts that you've used, wash your pillowcases daily (or at least change them daily), and do not touch your eyes.
Some people get conjunctivitis chronically and is sometimes is associated with blepharitis, an infection in the eyelids, which can be a recurring condition but has no serious effect. It can also include styes, morning eyelash crusting, eyelash loss or foreign body sensation.
Damp cloth clean
People can try using a warm, damp cloth to remove pus from the eye and lashes. They may also find that a warm shower helps remove the dry crust.
The incubation period (the time between becoming infected and symptoms appearing) for viral or bacterial conjunctivitis is about 24 to 72 hours. If you touch something with the virus or bacteria on it, and then touch your eyes, you can develop pink eye.
Use an EPA-registered disinfectant on surfaces that is effective at killing adenoviruses,* such as a bleach-based solution (2,000–5,000 ppm chlorine or 10 to 25 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water). Ensure the disinfectants remain on all surfaces for the recommended contact time. Apply wet and allow to dry.
Eye doctors have a few tricks. Viral pink eye usually starts in one eye following a cold or respiratory infection and causes watery discharge. Bacterial pink eye can affect one or both eyes and usually starts with a respiratory or ear infection. The discharge tends to be thick and makes the eyes stick together.
For bacterial conjunctivitis, the symptoms usually begin 24 to 72 hours after exposure to the infection. For viral conjunctivitis, the onset of symptoms can range from 12 hours to 12 days after infection.
Pink eye is spread by hand-to-eye contact or if the eye comes in contact with contaminated objects. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can also be spread through the air by coughing and sneezing, according to the CDC.
Pink eye caused by bacteria will take about 24–48 hours before symptoms improve once a person is on antibiotics. Pink eye caused by a virus takes anywhere from a few days to more than a week to resolve. Pink eye that results from an allergy will normally clear as the other allergy symptoms lessen.
It's highly contagious, considering you can pick it up from surfaces or contact through hugs and handshakes. While it's often mild, serious cases of pink eye can scar the cornea and threaten your sight!
Putting your pink eyes to bed can help ease discomfort and speed healing. “Adequate sleep gives the eyes a break,” says Rubin Naiman, PhD. “During sleep, complex changes occur that replenish the eye's moisture and protection.” Aim to sleep at least 8 hours each night.
The infection will usually clear up in 7 to 14 days without treatment and without any long-term consequences. However, in some cases, viral conjunctivitis can take 2 to 3 weeks or more to clear up. A doctor can prescribe antiviral medication to treat more serious forms of conjunctivitis.