Kids Home > How Long Is Pink Eye Contagious?
Many people are aware that pink eye is a highly infectious condition, but how long is pink eye contagious? People with this condition are contagious for up to 14 days, in the case of viral conjunctivitis, and up to 24 hours after an antibiotic is started with bacterial conjunctivitis. You should limit contact during this period (typically until there is no more eye discharge).
Both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are highly contagious. In most cases, however, people do not seem to be contagious during the incubation period (the period between when transmission occurs and before symptoms begin).
Once symptoms begin, a person with pink eye caused by a virus (viral conjunctivitis) or bacteria (bacterial conjunctivitis) is thought to be capable of spreading the infection.
Pink eye is contagious for up to 14 days, in the case of viral conjunctivitis, and up to 24 hours after an antibiotic is started with bacterial conjunctivitis.
Your healthcare provider will let you know which type of pink eye you or your child has and whether it is contagious. Keep in mind that just because you or your child was given an antibiotic, this does not necessarily mean that it is bacterial conjunctivitis. In some cases, healthcare providers will give antibiotics even if they think it is viral conjunctivitis. These antibiotics will have no effect on the contagious period for this type of pink eye because antibiotics do not affect viruses.
In order to decrease the chances of spreading pink eye, healthcare providers recommend that people stay at home until there is no longer any discharge. If this is not practical, try to limit contact with others while contagious and follow the suggestions outlined in the article Pink Eye Prevention.
It is also common for schools and daycare to require that students receive at least 24 hours of treatment and a note from their doctor before returning.