6 Myths About Conjunctivitis

Posted October 25, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read

Conjunctivitis, usually referred to as pink eye, is a very common eye condition. Most people think they know what pink eye is, but there are many misconceptions about it. Pink eye is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane that covers part of the eye and the inside of the eyelid. The condition is most closely associated with redness and itchiness of the eyes. But there’s more than one type of pink eye, and there are important differences in what can cause it and how to treat it.

Myth 1: Only children get pink eye.


  • Pink eye is very common in children, but it’s not just a kids’ condition.

  • Millions of Americans children and adults get pink eye each year.

  • The condition frequently occurs in children for several reasons.

  • Pink eye is commonly caused by hand-to-eye contact, and kids (especially younger ones) are more likely to rub their eyes and not wash their hands properly.

  • Infectious conjunctivitis is easily spread in environments where children are in close proximity such as at school or day care.

Myth 2: You won’t get pink eye if you don’t rub your eyes.


  • Touching your eyes with unclean hands is just one way that you can get conjunctivitis.

  • The eye can become infected if it comes in contact with any contaminated object or substance, such as improperly cleaned contact lenses, makeup or lotions, or the tip of an eye-drop dispenser that was used on an eye with conjunctivitis.

  • Viral conjunctivitis can be spread through exposure to the coughing and sneezing of a person with an upper-respiratory infection, such as a common cold.

  • Other types of conjunctivitis can be caused by allergens such as dust mites and pet dander or by exposure to irritants such as pollution and chemicals.

Myth 3: Pink eye is always infectious and very contagious.


  • Different types of pink eye exist, and not all of them are infectious.

  • Bacterial conjunctivitis (caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria) and viral conjunctivitis are very contagious.

  • On the other hand, allergic conjunctivitis usually occurs in people with seasonal allergies, and chemical conjunctivitis is caused by contact with irritants such as smog or the chlorine in swimming pool water.

Myth 4: You can’t be born with conjunctivitis.


  • Newborns can have neonatal conjunctivitis, which is caused by a blocked tear duct, irritation to the eye, or an infection.

  • A mother can pass bacteria and viruses to a baby during childbirth.

  • Two common types of neonatal conjunctivitis occur when the mother has the sexually transmitted diseases chlamydia or gonorrhea.

  • Babies born with chlamydial or gonococcal conjunctivitis can develop serious infections in other parts of the body, such as the lungs and the spinal cord (meningitis).

  • Neonatal conjunctivitis caused by bacteria is treated with antibiotics.

Myth 5: You never need to go to the doctor for conjunctivitis.


  • Most of the time, pink eye doesn’t require special treatment and gets better on its own.

  • However, it can sometimes lead to complications.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you see a healthcare provider if you have symptoms and any of the following: eye pain, blurred vision, a weakened immune system, or a preexisting eye condition.

  • If your symptoms persist or worsen, talk to your doctor.

Myth 6: There is no treatment for conjunctivitis.


  • Conjunctivitis is often mild and goes away on its own.

  • But treatments can relieve some symptoms, depending on the type of conjunctivitis.

  • Eye drops known as artificial tears can ease dryness, warm or cool compresses can soothe irritated eyes and reduce inflammation, and allergy medications can improve symptoms when pink eye is caused by allergens.

  • If the condition is accompanied by eye pain, vision problems, or worsening symptoms, then you should seek medical attention.

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