PreventionBy Mayo Clinic staff
Preventing the spread of pink eye
Practice good hygiene to control the spread of pink eye. For instance:
- Don't touch your eyes with your hands.
- Wash your hands often.
- Use a clean towel and washcloth daily.
- Don't share towels or washcloths.
- Change your pillowcases often.
- Throw away your eye cosmetics, such as mascara.
- Don't share eye cosmetics or personal eye care items.
Although pink eye symptoms may resolve in three or four days, children with viral conjunctivitis may be contagious for a week or more. Children may return to school when they no longer experience tearing and matted eyes.
If your child has bacterial conjunctivitis, keep him or her away from school until after treatment is started. Most schools and child care facilities require that your child wait at least 24 hours after starting treatment before returning to school or child care. Check with your doctor if you have any questions about when your child can return to school or child care.
Preventing pink eye in newborns
Newborns' eyes are susceptible to bacteria normally present in the mother's birth canal. These bacteria cause no symptoms in the mother. In rare cases, these bacteria can cause infants to develop a serious form of conjunctivitis known as ophthalmia neonatorum, which needs treatment without delay to preserve sight. That's why shortly after birth, an antibiotic ointment is applied to every newborn's eyes. The ointment helps prevent eye infection.
- Preferred practice pattern: Conjunctivitis. San Francisco, Calif.: American Academy of Ophthalmology. http://one.aao.org/CE/PracticeGuidelines/PPP.aspx. Accessed June 2, 2012.
- Jacobs DS. Conjunctivitis. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 28, 2012.
- Care of the patient with conjunctivitis. St. Louis, Mo.: American Optometric Association. http://www.aoa.org/documents/CPG-11.pdf. Accessed May 28, 2012.
- Riordan-Eva P, et al., eds. Vaughan & Asbury's General Ophthalmology. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=55781421. Accessed May 28, 2012.
- Rohren CH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 6, 2012.
- Robertson DM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 4, 2012.