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Pink Eye in Adults

How Is the Disease Spread?

Most children develop pink eye as a result of viral conjunctivitis. This is also the case in adults, although allergic conjunctivitis is also common.
Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are highly contagious (see Pink Eye Transmission). They spread by direct contact with infected eye secretions, or contact with objects or surfaces that have been contaminated with these eye secretions (such as a door handle, washcloth, or pillowcase). If another person touches these secretions and then touches their eyes, they can also get pink eye.
Once the virus or bacterium enters a person's eye, symptoms do not begin immediately. This period between transmission and the beginning of symptoms is called the incubation period (see Pink Eye Incubation Period).
(Click Pink Eye Symptoms for common signs and symptoms of this condition.)

Preventing Pink Eye From Spreading

While pink eye can be highly contagious in both children and adults, the reason that it is more likely to happen in children is that they are not as good at prevention.
All good prevention strategies focus on minimizing any contact with eye secretions or contaminated surfaces, and when you do come in contact with them, practicing good hygiene.
This means:
  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water (if not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub)
  • Doing laundry more often
  • Not sharing items, such as pillows, towels, or washcloths
  • Keeping your hands away from your eyes.
(Click Pink Eye Prevention for more tips.)
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Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis) Information

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