How Long Does Pink Eye Remain Contagious After Antibiotic Use? 

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how long is pink eye contagious after starting drops


In this blog, we learn about pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, which can be caused by viruses, bacteria, allergens, or irritants. Symptoms include redness, tearing, discharge, itching, and eyelid swelling. Pink eye can be categorized into allergic, viral, bacterial, or other causes, each with different durations and treatments.

Allergic conjunctivitis requires avoidance of triggers and may involve medication, bacterial conjunctivitis often requires antibiotics, and viral conjunctivitis typically resolves on its own. It’s crucial to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment. Pink eye can spread easily through direct or indirect contact, emphasizing the importance of good hygiene practices and avoiding sharing personal items. Additionally, pink eye may sometimes indicate a more significant infection, necessitating medical evaluation.

We’ll discuss these topics in this blog:

What is Pink Eye Conjunctivitis?

Pink eye is when the inside of your eyelids and the outer layer of your eye get red and swollen. It happens because of germs like viruses or bacteria, allergies, or other things. You can have it in one or both eyes.

When you have pink eyes, the white part of your eye looks pink or red, and your eyelids might be swollen or droopy. There could be gooey stuff coming out of your eye or crustiness on your eyelashes and eyelids.

What’s the Difference Between Pink Eye and a Stye?

Styes are usually caused by a bacterial infection in the oil glands of your eyelids. They can be painful and tender to the touch. Styes often start as a red bump that may gradually develop a white or yellow pus-filled center. They can occur on the inside or outside of the eyelid and typically go away on their own within a few days to a week.

Pink eye, on the other hand, can be caused by various factors, including viruses, bacteria, allergens, or irritants. Viral conjunctivitis, the most common form of pink eye, often spreads easily and is associated with symptoms such as watery discharge and itchiness. Bacterial conjunctivitis may cause a thicker discharge and is often treated with antibiotics. Allergic conjunctivitis can be triggered by allergens like pollen or pet dander, resulting in itching, tearing, and redness.

While both pink eyes and styes can be uncomfortable, they are typically not serious and can be treated with appropriate care. However, if symptoms persist or worsen, it’s essential to seek medical advice from an eye doctor.

What are The Symptoms of Pink Eye?

Pink eye has some clear signs:

  • Your eye or inner eyelid gets red.
  • Your eye makes more tears than usual.
  • You might wake up with crusty stuff on your eyelashes, especially if it’s yellow and thick.
  • There might be green or white stuff coming out of your eye.
  • Your eyes might feel gritty or itchy.
  • They could also feel like they’re burning.
  • Your vision might get blurry.
  • You might find it hard to handle bright lights.
  • Your eyelids might swell up.

If you see your eye is pink or reddish all over, and it’s always tearing up with green, yellow, or white stuff coming out, and it’s itchy, you might have pink eye. But only a doctor can say for sure.

How Long Does Pink Eye Last?

The pink eye comes in different types, and they affect how long it takes to get better:

Allergic pink eye

  • Happens when your eye reacts to things like grass, pet fur, dust, mold, pollen, or chemicals.
  • Not catching from others.
  • Goes away faster if you stay away from the things that trigger it. Some people might need eye drops or other medicine to manage it.

Viral pink eye

  • Caused by viruses like adenovirus, herpes simplex virus (HSV), or others.
  • Can spread easily from one person to another through coughing, sneezing, or touching infected surfaces.
  • Can come with symptoms like fever and body aches.
  • Highly contagious for 10–14 days and can take up to 14–30 days to fully disappear.

Bacterial pink eye

  • Caused by bacteria and usually lasts about a week.
  • Can spread from one eye to the other.
  • Can be treated with antibiotics, and symptoms should start improving after 3–4 days of starting treatment.
  • If antibiotic drops don’t work quickly, it’s likely viral pink eye instead.

Other causes

  • Sometimes, conditions like uveitis (linked to diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis) or cellulitis in the eye can cause pink-eye-like symptoms.
  • These types aren’t contagious but need medical attention as they can lead to complications.

How is Pink eye Treated?

If your eyes are red and irritated, it’s smart to see a doctor because it can be hard to tell what kind of pink eye you have.

  • If it’s bacterial pink eye, the doctor might give you special eye drops or ointment with antibiotics. These drops, commonly used for teens, are used a few times a day and might sting a bit at first. Even if your eyes start feeling better, keep using the drops for as long as the doctor says. If you stop too soon, the infection might come back.
  • If a virus is causing your pink eye, antibiotic drops won’t help. Your body will fight off the virus on its own, and your eyes will get better over time.
  • For allergic pink eyes, the doctor might give you special eye drops or pills to help with allergies.

Pink eye can spread easily from one person to another through:

  • Sharing personal stuff like towels or makeup
  • Close contact, like shaking hands
  • Using dirty makeup or touching your eyes with dirty hands
  • Using contact lenses without cleaning them properly
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Touching one infected eye and then the other
  • Sometimes, pink eye can be a sign of a bigger infection that might be contagious, like COVID-19 or certain bacterial infections.


In conclusion, pink eye, or conjunctivitis, can be caused by various factors such as viruses, bacteria, allergens, or irritants. It presents with symptoms like redness, excessive tearing, discharge, itching, and swelling of the eyelids. The duration and treatment of pink eye depend on its underlying cause, with allergic conjunctivitis requiring avoidance of triggers and possibly medication, bacterial conjunctivitis typically treated with antibiotics, and viral conjunctivitis resolving on its own over time. While pink eye is usually not serious, it can be highly contagious, spreading through direct or indirect contact with infected individuals or objects. Therefore, it’s essential to practice good hygiene, avoid sharing personal items, and seek medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen. Additionally, pink eye can sometimes indicate a more significant infection, highlighting the importance of proper diagnosis and management by a healthcare professional.


Q1. How can you tell when the pink eye is no longer contagious?

A1. If it’s bacterial, you’re contagious while having symptoms or up to 24 to 48 hours after starting antibiotics. For viral pink eye, you’re contagious as long as symptoms persist, usually for several days. You might spread it before noticing any symptoms.

Q2. How long does pink eye last after using drops?

A2. If your doctor prescribes antibiotic drops for bacterial pink eye, symptoms typically improve within 2 to 3 days.

Q3. How can you stop the pink eye from spreading at home?

A3. Thoroughly wash hands, especially after contact with someone with pink eyes or their belongings. Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes, as it can worsen the condition or spread it to the other eye. Don’t share personal items like makeup, towels, or contact lenses.

Q4. How can you tell if pink eye is viral or bacterial?

A4. Bacterial pink eye often shows yellow or green sticky discharge, itching, and swollen eyelids, while viral pink eye typically presents with watery discharge during the day and sticky discharge in the morning, accompanied by very swollen eyelids.

Q5. Is pink eye contagious through the air?

A5. No, it’s usually spread by direct contact rather than through the air.

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