Conjunctivitis is also referred to as red eye and is quite common. It is also called infectious conjunctivitis. The front of the eye is covered with a thin tissue layer which gets red and inflamed. It can either be bacterial or viral conjunctivitis depending on the causative factor. When pink eye is caused by irritation or allergens, it is not contagious. Pink eye causes watering in the eyes and itchiness. When caused due to allergy, there is a sticky coating on the eyes. Incubation period for pink eye is the time frame when the transmission happens and the symptoms begin to show.
What Is the Incubation Period for Pink Eye?
Once the eye gets infected by bacteria or virus, the symptoms do not appear immediately. The incubation period for viral infection is 12 hours to 3 days. When caused by bacteria, the symptoms appear after 1 – 3 days.
1. Is Pink Eye Contagious During Incubation Period?
Pink eye caused by virus or bacteria is highly contagious, but during the incubation period for pink eye, it is not contagious. Bacterial conjunctivitis becomes contagious when the symptoms start to appear and continue for 24 hours after an antibiotic is given. For viral conjunctivitis, it is contagious from the time the symptoms appear and last for around 14 days.
2. What Happens After Incubation Period?
After incubation period, the symptoms of pink eye begin to develop, including:
- Itchiness and irritation, and the conjunctiva slowly turns pink or red due to inflammation
- Swelling and redness of the eyelids and profuse watering of eyes
- A feeling of having sand in the eyes when you blink
- Burning sensation and photo sensitivity
- Wind and cold air can cause stinging sensation in the eyes
- Watery discharge is seen in viral infection and thick while pus-like discharge is seen in bacterial infection
- It can affect one or both eyes, if one is infected, it will affect the other as well
Remedies for Pink Eye
Usually treatment is not required for conjunctivitis as it heals in around a week. The treatment, if required, depends on the cause of the infection. Here are several things that you need to pay attention to.
1. Remove Contact Lenses
It is important to remove the lenses, clean them thoroughly and store. You should wear glasses till it heals.
2. Apply Cold or Warm Compresses
Cool compress is better for allergic conjunctivitis, whereas for an infection, a warm and moist compress feels more soothing. It helps in reducing the swelling and redness. Separate compress should be used for your eyes to avoid transferring, especially after the incubation period for pink eye.
3. Keep Your Eyes Clean
It is important to keep the eyes clean by wiping from inside out. A clean cloth or cotton should be used in single stroke and avoid pushing the drained fluid back into the eyes. It should be discarded immediately or put in laundry. Wash hands thoroughly after wiping.
Antibiotics are administered for bacterial infection as drops or ointments. No medicines are given for viral infections. When allergens are involved, anti-allergic medication is given in form of pills or drops. The eyes should not be exposed to further allergens, as it can worsen the condition. Irritants can be removed from the eyes by washing. If irritant is a harmful substance like acid, medical help should be sought as soon as possible.
When to See a Doctor
A doctor should be consulted immediately in case of the following symptoms:
- Pain in the eyes
- Photosensitivity or photophobia
- Disturbances in the vision
- Redness in eyes
- Conjunctivitis in a newborn baby
When Can I Return to School or Work?
Incubation period for pink eye caused by virus is around 12 hours to 3 days and a person can go back to work or school when the symptoms improve. That would be in 3 to 5 days. For bacterial infection, the person can go back to work 24 hours after antibiotic has been administered and symptoms start improving.
When a lot of children at school have conjunctivitis, you’d better not send your child to school till the infection is cleared. When someone who has pink eye works closely with you and shares equipment, you should ask him or her to return to work only after the discharge clears.