Pink Eye Prevention
There are many things you can do to minimize the spread of pink eye. Prevention starts with understanding how transmission occurs (both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are spread by direct contact with secretions or contact with contaminated objects). All good prevention strategies focus on good hygiene and minimizing any contact with these secretions or contaminated surfaces.
When pink eye is caused by bacteria or a virus, it can be highly contagious, spreading easily to the other eye or to other people. However, you can do things to help minimize this spread.
It begins with understanding how pink eye transmission occurs. Both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are spread by direct contact with secretions or contact with contaminated objects.
All good prevention strategies, therefore, focus on minimizing contact with these secretions or contaminated surfaces, and when you do come in contact, practicing good hygiene.
Some examples of things that can be done to minimize the spread of pink eye include:
- Don't share: Sharing anything with other people that could have come in contact with contaminated secretions increases the risk of transmission. Make sure not to share things like:
- Eye makeup
- Everyone wash their hands: Washing hands regularly is one of the most important things you can do to prevent the spread of pink eye. Regularly wash with warm water and plain soap (you don't need antibacterial soap). Everyone in the house should be washing regularly. Also, teach your children to wash their hands properly. Rub for 15 to 30 seconds with soap before rinsing.
- Strategic washing: There are definitely some important times to wash your hands. This includes:
- Before and after eating.
- After touching the eyes.
- After cleaning you or your child's eyes (see Home Treatment for Pink Eye). Make sure to also throw out tissues, cotton balls, or gauze that you used to help clean the eye.
- Use alcohol-based hand rubs: If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand rubs.
- Learn to love laundry: Every few days, wash towels and other linens that the person with pink eye has used. Use hot water, and wash them separately from the rest of the family's laundry to avoid contamination.
- Change often: Things like pillowcases of the infected person should be changed often.
- Don't touch those eyes: Keep your hands away from the eyes. If your eyes are itching or irritated, try warm or cool compresses, artificial tears, or antihistamine/decongestant drops (see Pink Eye Treatment).
- Limit the use of contact lenses: If you wear contacts and are diagnosed with either viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, you should throw away the disposable lenses you were wearing and the lens case. Nondisposable lenses should be disinfected overnight. You also should not wear contacts again until the eye is white and there is no discharge for 24 hours after the antibiotics have been stopped.
- Limit contact: Avoid spreading the infection to more susceptible individuals by limiting contact to the very old, very young, and those with a weakened immune system.