Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Pink eye: How long is it contagious?

How long is pink eye contagious? My son's child care has a policy that children with pink eye stay home until they're no longer contagious.

Updated: 06-27-2012

Answer

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) generally remains contagious as long as the eye continues to tear and produce a discharge. Signs and symptoms of pink eye usually improve within three to seven days. When tearing and discharge are no longer present, it's appropriate for a child to return to school or child care.

If the pink eye is caused by a bacterial infection, treatment with antibiotic drops or ointment for the eyes may be necessary. Some schools and child care facilities require that a child wait at least 24 hours after starting treatment before returning. Good hygiene — including hand-washing after touching the eyes — is important to minimize spread of the disease.

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