Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis) Facts and Myths
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is one of the most common ailments among school-aged children. Since many small children have poor hygiene habits (sharing food, not washing their hands, etc.), it is very easy for them to spread illnesses like pink eye. However, despite its ubiquity -- or perhaps even because of it -- there are many common misconceptions about conjunctivitis.
Here are some of the most common myths about pink eye and conjunctivitis:
You can only get pink eye conjunctivitis if someone else already has it: False. Pink eye has three main causes: bacterial, viral, and allergic. Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by the same bacteria that causes ear infections, so it is possible to contract pink eye from someone who has an ear infection, or an ear infection can spread to the eyes and cause conjunctivitis. The same seasonal viruses that cause colds and the flu cause viral pink eye, and many children can contract conjunctivitis instead of developing a cold. Allergic pink eye is caused by allergies, most commonly hay fever, and does not require a contaminating host in order to develop.
Pink eye is not contagious if the infected person is using antibiotic eye drops: False. Only bacterial pink eye responds to antibiotics. Many doctors will prescribe them as a precaution, and some schools may require children to be on antibiotic drops before returning to class. However, if you or your child is suffering from viral pink eye conjunctivitis, the infection can still be just as contagious with or without medicated drops, and even in cases of bacterial infections, the drops only shorten the length of the illness and often does not make it any less contagious.
Only children can contract pink eye: False. People of any age can get pink eye. Since the condition normally develops as a result of other common illnesses, it is very easy for anyone to contract the infection.
Having the facts about pink eye and conjunctivitis can help to better handle the infection should you or your child develop the condition. However, if you believe you or your family member has contracted this condition, you may want to give your family doctor a call.