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Can I Go To Work With Pink Eye? Prevention & Treatment

Waking up with red, itchy, and watery eyes can be a real bummer, especially when you have a busy workday ahead. You might be wondering, ...

by Kendra Reed

This article was created after thorough research and has been improved with the assistance of AI technology. Furthermore, our dedicated editorial team has meticulously fact-checked and polished its content for accuracy and clarity.

Waking up with red, itchy, and watery eyes can be a real bummer, especially when you have a busy workday ahead. You might be wondering, “Can I go to work with pink eye?” Before you make that decision, it’s crucial to understand what pink eye is, how contagious it is, and the best practices to prevent its spread.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about managing pink eye while balancing your work responsibilities.

What Do You Mean By Pink Eye?

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the thin, transparent membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the white part of the eye. This condition can be caused by various factors, including viral and bacterial infections, allergies, or irritants. When the tiny blood vessels in the conjunctiva become inflamed, they give the eyes a reddish or “pink” appearance, hence the name “pink eye.”

Symptoms of pink eye may include:

◾ Redness in one or both eyes

◾ Swollen eyelids

◾ Itchy, burning, or gritty sensation

◾ Increased tear production

◾ White, yellow, or green discharge

◾ Crusting of the eyelashes

◾ Swollen lymph nodes (in some cases)

Is It Safe To Go To Work With Pink Eye?

The decision to go to work with pink eye largely depends on the cause and severity of the condition. In general, pink eye is highly contagious, especially in the early stages when symptoms are at their peak. The contagious period typically lasts as long as you have watery eyes and discharge.

Can I go to work with pink eye caused by a viral infection?

Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can spread rapidly through coughing, sneezing, or close contact with an infected person. If you have viral pink eye, it’s best to stay home from work until your symptoms subside, typically within 7 to 14 days. This minimizes the risk of spreading the infection to your colleagues and prevents potential outbreaks in the workplace.

Can I go to work with pink eye caused by a bacterial infection?

Bacterial conjunctivitis is also contagious but can often be treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments prescribed by your healthcare provider. If you’ve been on antibiotics for 24-48 hours and your symptoms have improved significantly, you may be able to return to work while continuing the treatment. However, it’s crucial to follow proper hygiene practices to prevent the spread of the infection.

Can I go to work with pink eye caused by allergies or irritants?

In cases where the pink eye is caused by allergies or environmental irritants, such as smoke or dust, it is generally not contagious. If your symptoms are mild and manageable, you may be able to go to work as long as you practice good hygiene and avoid touching or rubbing your eyes unnecessarily.

Treatment For Pink Eye

Treatment For Pink Eye

While mild cases of pink eye may resolve on their own with proper self-care, more severe or persistent cases may require medical treatment. Here are some common treatment options:

1. At-home Remedies

◾ Applying warm or cool compresses to the affected eye(s) to relieve discomfort

◾ Using over-the-counter artificial tears to flush out irritants or discharge

◾ Gently clean the eye area with a warm, damp washcloth

◾ Temporarily discontinuing the use of contact lenses

◾ Discarding any eye makeup or products that may have come into contact with the infected eye(s)

2. Medical Treatment

◾ Antibiotic eye drops or ointments for bacterial conjunctivitis

◾ Antiviral medication for severe viral conjunctivitis

◾ Steroid eye drops or ointments for allergic conjunctivitis

It’s essential to seek medical attention if you experience severe symptoms such as eye pain, sensitivity to light, or vision problems, as these may indicate a more serious condition.

Prevention Methods for Pink Eye

Whether you have pink eye or are trying to avoid contracting it, practicing good hygiene and taking preventive measures is crucial. Here are some effective prevention methods:

1. Handwashing

Frequent and thorough handwashing with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of pink eye. Be sure to wash your hands after touching your eyes, blowing your nose, or coming into contact with someone who has pink eye.

2. Avoid Touching Or Rubbing Your Eyes

Resist the urge to touch or rub your eyes, especially if your hands are not clean.

3. Don’t Share Personal Items

Avoid sharing items such as towels, washcloths, makeup, contact lenses, or eyedrops with others to prevent the spread of infection.

4. Clean And Disinfect Surfaces

Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that may have come into contact with eye discharge, such as pillowcases, and towels, and frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, countertops, and electronic devices.

5. Practice Good Cough And Sneeze Etiquette

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and dispose of the tissue properly. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.

6. Avoid Public Pools Or Hot Tubs

If you have pink eye, it’s best to avoid public pools, hot tubs, and other recreational water facilities until your symptoms have fully resolved to prevent spreading the infection.


Deciding whether to go to work with pink eye ultimately depends on the cause, severity, and contagiousness of your condition.

Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are highly contagious, and it’s generally recommended to stay home from work until your symptoms subside to prevent spreading the infection to colleagues. However, if you have a mild case of pink eye caused by allergies or irritants, you may be able to go to work while practicing good hygiene and avoiding unnecessary eye contact.

Remember, seeking medical advice from your healthcare provider is always the best course of action when dealing with pink eye. They can provide an accurate diagnosis, recommend appropriate treatment, and advise you on when it’s safe to return to work or other public settings.

By taking the necessary precautions and following proper prevention methods, you can minimize the risk of spreading pink eye and prioritize the health and well-being of yourself and those around you.


  1. CDC (n.d) Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) Available Online at: https://www.cdc.gov/conjunctivitis/about/symptoms.html
  2. Johns Hopkins (2024) Pink Eye Available Online at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/pink-eye

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