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Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, can either be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, which, in this case, can be contagious. On the other hand, acquiring the said condition due to an allergic reaction is not transmittable.
Can you sleep next to someone with pink eye? Avoid sleeping next to someone with pink eye since you could easily become infected yourself. The infection is airborne; therefore, coughing and sneezing can be its mode of transmission.
Other ways of acquiring the bacteria or virus are through touching something infected by either of the aforementioned then directly touching your eye and through close contact (e.g. hugging, handshaking, kissing).
What is Pink Eye?
Pink eye or conjunctivitis is a condition where an inflammation of the conjunctiva occurs. Conjunctiva is the thin tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and jackets the sclera, the white portion of your eye.
A reddish or pinkish appearance of the inflamed eyes happens due to the blood vessel becoming more visible. Conjunctivitis can also make the eyes teary, itchy, or painful, which is uncomfortable for anyone with the said infection. The infected eyes can also produce tears or discharge that hardens during sleep, causing the eyes to be difficult to open once awake.
Other signs or symptoms that accompany pink eyes include:
- Swelling of the inflamed conjunctiva
- Sensitivity and irritation to bright lights
- Enlargement or tenderness of lymph nodes in front of the ears
- Feeling like a foreign object is in the eyes
- Contact lenses tend to move from one direction to another due to bumps under the eyelid
What are the Causative Agents of Pink Eye?
Pink eye is commonly caused by a bacterial or viral infection, but it can also be a reaction to irritants or allergic reaction.
Irritation in the eyes due to bacterial infection is usually caused by Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, or Haemophilus influenzae. As for viral infection, adenovirus and herpes simplex virus are commonly noted to cause conjunctivitis. The difference between bacterial and viral is that the former releases yellow discharges from the eyes, while the latter releases clear discharges.
Patients with pink eye caused by either of the aforementioned are advised to stay at home and refrain from interacting with other people. This is to prevent the bacteria or virus from being passed onto other people.
The non-transmissible causes of pink eye are allergic reaction or reaction to irritants. Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when a person is introduced to allergens like pollens, dust mites, animal fur, and molds. Irritants like inserting foreign objects in the eyes (e.g. contact lenses, lens solution), chlorine exposure from swimming pools, salt water, dust, and cosmetics can also cause pink eye.
How is Pink Eye Highly Contagious?
Just like other conditions, conjunctivitis can easily be transmitted through close contact or simply by touching infected items then touching your eyes with your infected hand afterwards. If you sleep next to someone with it, they may couch or sneeze, which would place you at risk.
The incubation period for bacterial or viral conjunctivitis is within 24 to 72 hours – to simplify, this is during the phase where the person becomes infected until symptoms appear. This may be a difficult time if it is someone you sleep next to, as they are most likely your partner.
Wearing contact lens for an extended period can impose a greater risk of infection since bacteria can dwell on the lenses.
How to Diagnose Pink Eye?
Seeking help from a consultant is necessary to diagnose conjunctivitis. In order to identify exactly what caused the condition, patients are thoroughly assessed through the signs, symptoms, and patient history.
As mentioned earlier, bacterial conjunctivitis releases yellow discharges, which may be examined in the laboratory through culture testing to identify the bacteria that have caused the infection. On the other hand, viral conjunctivitis gives off clear discharges. Laboratory testing is not necessary for viral conjunctivitis, but in serious cases, the physician may order specific tests for further testing.
Allergic conjunctivitis is associated with allergic symptoms, which doesn’t need any medication. Staying away from allergens is the conclusive solution for this condition.
How to Treat Pink Eye?
The treatment process depends on the kind of conjunctivitis acquired by the patient and the severity of the condition.
Normally, patients with severe bacterial conjunctivitis are prescribed with an antibiotic (e.g. erythromycin drops) to get rid of the infection as soon as possible and to avoid complications. As for those with mild bacterial conjunctivitis, they are only given systane gel drops to avoid dry eyes. Antibiotic prescription is not needed.
Applying antibiotic drops in the eyes must be done with the physician’s consent and patients should consult with their physician if the condition does not improve after 24 hours of treatment.
Viral conjunctivitis is commonly reported as mild and eventually subsides without treatment within 7-14 days. In some cases, however, the virus stays up to 2 weeks or more before it completely disappears.
On the other hand, the physician may prescribe an antiviral medication for patients with severe conjunctivitis. Antibiotic is not effective in treating viral conjunctivitis and is only intended for bacterial infections.
Pink eye caused by allergic reactions can be remedied by eradicating allergens within the area or staying away from it. Taking antihistamine and using eye drops can give relief.
For prolonged allergic conditions, consulting a physician is needed in order to find a suitable treatment for allergies to quickly subside.
Removing foreign material like contact lenses from the eyes can help relieve redness. Consulting a doctor is highly advisable in cases wherein the redness does not subdue or disappears and has continued to give discomfort.
How to Prevent Pink Eye?
Patients with bacterial or viral conjunctivitis are mandated to stay at home since it’s a highly transmissible infection that can be passed on person to person easily.
There are various preventive measures that must be practiced by everyone to avoid acquiring the infection:
- Avoid sleeping next to someone with pink eye.
- Wash hands immediately after touching a person’s hand, eyes, and items with the bacteria or virus. Use water and soap and practice the proper step of hand washing.
- If water and soap are unavailable, use a sanitizer or alcohol with 60% and up alcohol concentration.
- Don’t touch or rub your eyes with your unwashed hands.
- Avoid sharing items like pillows, eyeglasses, sunglasses, blankets, and cosmetics with the infected person.
If you have pink eye, or sleep next to someone with pink eye, take note of the following guidelines:
- Immediately wash any discharge surrounding the eyes with clean water.
- Don’t share your eye drop dispenser and other items to anyone.
- Clean your eyeglasses as frequently as possible.
- Clean and store your contact lens properly or as instructed by your eye healthcare professional.
- Refrain close contact with anyone to avoid transmission of the bacteria or virus.
- Wear a face mask since it can be transmitted through sneezing or coughing.
Once you’ve recovered from the infection, it’s best to follow these instructions to avoid re-infection:
- Throw away cosmetics and contact lenses used while infected.
- Wash all linens, pillows, and clothes used.
- Don’t sleep on the same bed as before.
- Discard contact lens solution used while infected.
- Clean eyeglasses together with its case thoroughly.
- Wash hands after handling everything you used while infected.
Pink Eye on Neonates
Apparently, newborns can also get pink eye within 1st day to two weeks after birth. Neonatal conjunctivitis or ophthalmia neonatorum is a condition wherein newborns contract the bacteria, Neisseria gonorrheae and/or Chlamydia trachomatis, from an infected mother. This condition also occurs in cases where newborns are exposed to chemical irritants such as silver nitrate and blocked tear ducts.
Other agents responsible for neonatal conjunctivitis are Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus haemolyticus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV 2).
Apart from the infected mother’s genital tract, newborns can also experience neonatal conjunctivitis by infected hands.
Newborns infected by the bacteria generally present the following symptoms:
- Presence of discharge from the conjunctiva with appearance varying on the cause.
- Eyelids become swollen.
- Eyeballs are tender and painful.
Leaving the condition untreated may develop corneal ulceration, which can be detrimental for the newborn’s eyesight and overall condition.
Treatment for Neonatal Conjunctivitis
An antibiotic-based ointment or eye drop is applied to the newborn’s eyes within an hour after birth to protect the newborn against gonococcal ophthalmia. Other treatments include oral and intravenous antibiotics. The ointment or eye drop may either contain erythromycin, tetracycline, or, in rare cases, silver nitrate.
A saline solution may also be prescribed in order to remove the pus in the newborn’s eyes, if needed.
Treatment is not deemed necessary for chemical conjunctivitis as it simply resolves on its own within 24-48 hours. On the other hand, neonates with blocked tear ducts will need a gentle massage between the nasal and eye. However, if the child’s tear ducts are still blocked upon reaching one year of age, an invasive procedure such as surgery is necessary.
Conclusion – Can You Sleep Next to Someone with Pink Eye?
Pink eye or also known as conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva that gives off a red or pink appearance in the sclera. Infectious conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria or virus, while the non-infectious ones are those coming from allergens, irritants, or chemical irritants in the case of newborns. Treatment varies from the kind of infection and the severity of the condition.