Can conjunctivitis be prevented?

Can conjunctivitis be prevented?

Preventing contagious forms of conjunctivitis (viral and bacterial pink eye)

  • A person with pink eye can prevent transmission by: Washing their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water (before and after cleaning the affected eye/s, applying drops or ointment, or handling food); using alcohol-based hand sanitisers (when water and soap are not available); avoiding rubbing or touching the eyes, nose or mouth; cleansing discharge from the eyes several times a day (using clean washcloths or new cotton wool balls and disposing of these in a sanitary manner as certain bacteria and germs may live for up to 72 hours on these types of things); washing bed linen (sheets, pillowcases etc), as well as towels and washcloths in hot water with detergent; cleaning surfaces daily (such as bathroom vanities, countertops, faucet handles and any shared things such as telephones); and cleaning eyeglasses daily (taking care not to contaminate cloths and towels).

    Spreading infection can also be prevented by not using the same eye drops in non-infected eyes (i.e. these should only be used in the eye being treated / one dispenser bottle per eye); not wearing contact lenses, not sharing personal items which could transmit infection (washcloths, towels, pillows, cosmetics / make-up and make-up application tools, eyeglasses, contact lenses and eye drops); as well as not using swimming pools. If a doctor has recommended that a person avoid contact with others and has booked a period of time away from the office or school, it is best to stay home until an infection is no longer contagious.
  • A person exposed to someone with conjunctivitis can prevent transmission by: Washing their hands with warm water and soap or using an alcohol-based sanitiser (especially after making contact with a person who has an infection, or handling items used by the individual); and taking care not to their touch eyes, nose or mouth; not sharing personal items (such as eye drops, make-up and make-up application tools, towels, washcloths, bed linen, contact lenses or storage cases and eyeglasses).
  • Preventing infection recurrence: Measures to avoid a potential re-infection with pink eye include discarding and replacing face or eye make-up that was used before an infection, as well as disposable contact lenses, cleaning solutions and casings. Eyeglasses and hard / extended wear contact lenses that are not disposable should also be sufficiently cleaned, including the casings they are kept in.

How to prevent conjunctivitis (pink eye)

Conjunctivitis can also be prevented by:

  • Avoiding or limiting exposure to known allergens that caused / triggered an allergic conjunctivitis infection. The use of air purifiers and scent-free detergents and soaps can also help to minimise exposure to certain allergies, especially in the home.
  • Ensuring vaccinations for some viral or bacterial conditions are up to date - including those for measles (rubeola), rubella (German measles), shingles, chicken pox (varicella), haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) and pneumococcal. 18
  • Using a recommended antibiotic ointment provided shortly after the birth of baby as per a doctor’s directions – bacteria is often present in a mother’s birth canal and can cause an infection during birth. Sometimes as a precaution, ointment will be recommended in the first days of life so as to prevent possible infection.


18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2 October 2017. Preventing the Spread of Conjunctivitis: [Accessed 22.08.2018]

PREVIOUS How is conjunctivitis treated?