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Pink Eye and the Myths Surrounding It

Story at-a-glance

  • While this is a popular story told in schools, passing gas into a pillow does not actually cause pink eye, because the gas usually contains methane only
  • Viral conjunctivitis normally occurs when you have a cold, because virus-containing droplets from a sneeze may land on your eyes

Pink eye is one of the most common optical diseases, but there are myths on its causes and how it spreads that have gained considerable popularity through the years. Let’s take a look at a couple of the most common ones.1,2

Anyone with pink eye can infect you — This myth is only true to a certain degree. As you’ll learn later on in this guide, pink eye that is caused by viruses and bacteria are contagious, but pink eye caused by chemical irritants or allergens is not.

If your eyes are red and swollen, it’s automatically pink eye Due to the prevalence of pink eye among communities (especially schools), it’s easy to assume that once you see someone who has red, swollen eyes, they automatically have pink eye. This isn’t entirely the case, as there are other ailments that can cause irritated eyes.

When Is Pink Eye Contagious and When Is It Not?

As you’ve read in the myths listed above, some types of pink eye are not contagious. The first one is called “allergic conjunctivitis,” which occurs due to exposure to dust, spores and animal dander. These allergens cause swollen and itchy eyes, along with a burning sensation.3

The second noncontagious form is “irritant conjunctivitis.” This occurs when foreign objects enter your eye, such as shampoo, chemical fumes or a dislodged eyelash. Normally, the irritation goes away shortly after the exposure is gone and when you’ve washed your eyes with running water. But if pain continues to linger, it’s best to visit a doctor immediately.4

The remaining two types of pink eye are contagious, namely viral and bacterial conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis normally occurs when you have a cold, because virus-containing droplets from a sneeze may land on your eyes. The same concept applies to bacterial conjunctivitis — contact into surfaces infected with bacteria, and then touching your eyes afterwards may result in infection. If you don’t wash your hands frequently, you may pass on the bacteria to others as well.


Pink Eye: Introduction

What is Pink Eye

Pink Eye in Children

Pink Eye in Adults

Is Pink Eye Contagious?

Pink Eye Duration

Pink Eye Causes

Types of Pink Eye

Pink Eye Symptoms

Pink Eye Treatment

Pink Eye Prevention

Pink Eye Diet

Pink Eye FAQ

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Pink Eye: Introduction

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Pink Eye in Children

[+] Sources and References [-] Sources and References

  • 1 Dr. Bishop & Associates, “8 Myths About Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)”
  • 2 Pennsylvania State University, “Does Farting on a Pillow Cause Pink Eye?” November 27, 2012
  • 3 Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, “Allergic Conjunctivitis”
  • 4 NHS Choices, “Conjunctivitis”
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