Precautions for Viral Conjunctivitis
January 8, 2024
Viral conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, exhibits high contagion levels. Transmission can occur effortlessly between people. By adhering to basic hygiene practices, you can significantly minimize the chances of contracting conjunctivitis or transmitting it to others.
What is Viral Conjunctivitis?
The contagious nature of viral conjunctivitis typically spans 10-12 days from the onset, as long as the eyes exhibit redness. It is advisable for patients to refrain from touching their eyes, shaking hands, and sharing items such as towels, napkins, pillowcases, and other potential carriers of the virus. Transmission can occur through inadvertent inoculation of viral particles from the patient’s hands or direct eye contact with infected upper respiratory droplets, fomites, or contaminated swimming pools. In most cases, the infection naturally resolves within 2-4 weeks.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis may include:
- Itchy eyes
- Ocular irritation (foreign body sensation)
- Fever and throat pain ( due to associated cold)
- Light sensitivity (when corneal involvement is present)
Types of Conjunctivitis
1- Allergic Conjunctivitis:
- Symptoms encompass itching, redness, and watering in both eyes.
- Non-contagious in nature.
- Typically, it results from allergies to substances or changes in climate.
2- Bacterial Conjunctivitis:
- Symptoms include discharge, redness, and irritation affecting both eyes.
- Caused by bacterial infection.
3- Viral Conjunctivitis:
- Symptoms involve irritation, photophobia, and watery discharge, often initiated in one eye.
- Highly contagious.
- Caused by the adenovirus.
How is Conjunctivitis Diagnosed?
Your ophthalmologist or pediatrician will conduct a thorough examination of your or your child’s eyes to diagnose the eye problem. Typically, the diagnosis of conjunctivitis can be made based on symptoms and medical history. An acuity test, such as an eye chart test, may be performed to assess vision.
Consult your healthcare provider if you are experiencing:
- Recent viral or bacterial infections.
- Exposure to irritants like chemicals or foreign objects in your eyes.
- Contact with a sexually transmitted infection.
- A family history of autoimmune disease or any other factors suggesting the possibility of an autoimmune condition.
Precautions for Viral Conjunctivitis
If You Have Conjunctivitis
If you find yourself with conjunctivitis, you can contribute to minimizing its transmission to others by adhering to these guidelines:
- Wash your hands every half hour with soap and warm water for at least 20-30 seconds.
- Prioritize handwashing before and after tending to your infected eye, including cleaning or applying eye drops/ointment.
- In the absence of soap and water, utilize an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol content.
- Refrain from touching or rubbing your eyes, as this may exacerbate the condition or spread it to the other eye.
- Use clean hands to wash any discharge around your eye(s) multiple times a day using a fresh cotton ball or a clean, wet washcloth. Discard used cotton balls and washcloths in hot water and detergent.
- Avoid using the same eye drop dispenser/bottle for both your infected and non-infected eyes.
- Wash pillowcases, sheets, washcloths, and towels regularly in hot water and detergent.
- Wash hands after handling these items.
- Do not share items such as pillows, towels, washcloths, eye drops, eye or face cosmetics, makeup brushes, contact lenses, contact lens storage cases, or eyeglasses.
- Refrain from wearing contact lenses until your eye doctor confirms it’s safe to resume.
- Follow your eye doctor’s instructions for cleaning, storing, and replacing your contact lenses.
- Clean eyeglasses carefully, ensuring not to contaminate items (like hand towels) that might be shared by others.
- Steer clear of using swimming pools during this period.
If You Are Around Someone with Conjunctivitis
To minimize the risk of infection when in close proximity to someone with conjunctivitis, consider the following precautions:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, ensuring a duration of at least 20 seconds.
- In the absence of soap and water, utilize an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing a minimum of 60% alcohol to cleanse your hands.
- Wash your hands after any contact with an infected person or items they use. For instance, wash your hands after applying eye drops or ointment to their infected eye(s) or handling their bed linens.
- Refrain from touching your eyes with unwashed hands to prevent potential transmission.
- Do not use or share items used by an infected person. This includes refraining from sharing pillows, washcloths, towels, eye drops, eye or face makeup, makeup brushes, contact lenses, contact lens storage cases, or eyeglasses.
Treatments for Viral Conjunctivitis
Viral conjunctivitis typically resolves on its own, with durations ranging from one week in mild cases to up to three weeks in more severe instances.
Supportive measures to alleviate discomfort include:
- Lubricating eye drops
- Topical corticosteroids
- Cool compresses to diminish lid swelling
- Avoid splashing water directly into the eyes
Mild cases of pink eye typically resolve spontaneously within a few days to a few weeks. In most cases of viral conjunctivitis, eye treatment is not necessary. Antibiotics prescribed for bacterial conjunctivitis can shorten the duration of symptoms and the contagious period.