Conjunctivitis, which is the medical name for pink eye, can be highly contagious. Causes for the condition include the following:

  • Viruses
  • Allergens
  • Bacteria
  • Certain chemicals
  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Foreign bodies such as an eyelash in the eye
  • Outdoor or indoor pollutants caused by fungi, dust, fumes, vapours, or smoke
  • Parasites or amoeba

Viral Conjunctivitis

Answering the question, “How is pink eye spread?” is explained through the development of viral or bacterial conjunctivitis. The other forms of conjunctivitis are not contagious. For example, viral conjunctivitis develops from a viral infection and may be caused by several different viruses or adenoviruses. Viral conjunctivitis can lead to a widespread outbreak.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis develops from a bacterial infection of the eye. The infection may be triggered by one of several bacteria, namely Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, or, less frequently, Neisseria gonorrhoeae or Chlamydia trachomatis. Pink eye of this derivation is often found in schools or daycare facilities. Therefore, it is more common in children than adults. Normally, the condition is observed from December through April.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

When conjunctivitis is caused by allergens or irritants such as pollution or chemicals, it is not contagious. However, allergic conjunctivitis happens more often than other allergic conditions such as eczema, asthma, or hay fever. It may occur throughout the year, forming from such indoor allergens as dander or dust mites.

Preventing the Spread of Pink Eye

To prevent the spread of pink eye, you need to practice the following measures:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap, particularly if you are applying eye drops. If you cannot use water and soap, use a hand sanitiser that is alcohol-based. The product should contain at least 60% alcohol to adequately sanitise the hands.
  • Avoid rubbing or touching the eye that is affected. Doing so can cause pink eye to spread to the other eye.
  • Never use the same eye drop dispenser for a non-infected and an infected eye.
  • Do not wear contacts whilst you have pink eye.
  • Do not share personal items including washcloths, eye drops, towels, pillows, or face or eye makeup. Also, do not share your eyeglasses or contact lenses.

If you are around someone who has pink eye, always wash your hands with soap and warm water. Never touch your eyes with your hands when they have not been washed. You also do not want to share items that have been touched or used by the infected person.

If you do not want the condition to recur, get rid of any face or eye makeup that was used when you were infected, including disposable contact lenses. Also, discard contact lens solutions that were used when you had pink eye. Eyeglasses and eyeglass cases should be also be cleaned if they were used when you were infected.