Conjuctivitis Can Spread Quickly, So If You Have It You Should Stay Home From Work

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — We don’t have to tell you that we’re in the thick of cold and flu season.

But we’re also in the middle of pink eye season — the time of the year when people get that awful, itchy and goopy eye infection, CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Tuesday.

It was the image that had everyone talking about pink eye — Bob Costas at the Sochi Olympics. It got so bad the television anchor was forced to sit out a few nights of the coverage.

Eye doctors here in the states are seeing lots of patients. It’s the season for conjunctivitis — medical talk for pink eye.

“Conjunctivitis is incredibly common this time of year. It’s the normal viri or viruses that are part of the cold virus that give you conjunctivitis of the eye. It can spread to both eyes,” said Dr. Rishi Singh of the Cleveland Clinic.

The signs and symptoms include redness, itchy, watery eyes, often with a crusty discharge, especially in the morning.

Pink eye can last 10 days to two weeks and because it’s usually caused by a virus, there’s no drug cure. So treatment options are aimed at just relieving symptoms.

“We give artificial tears for the irritation and the pain. Sometimes patching the eye can be a benefit if the pain is very severe,” Dr. Singh said.

Pink eye is also extremely contagious. That’s why it often spreads to the other eye by contact, so anyone with conjunctivitis should wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their eyes,” Dr. Gomez reported.

But the virus is also spread when an infected person touches things. So disinfect everything he or she has come into contact with, including bed linens.

“You’re sharing pillows or other materials with other people that have viruses of the cold virus that you may have caught,” Dr. Singh said.

In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe steroid eye drops to decrease inflammation, but mostly it’s something you just have to ride out.

Even with all the hand-washing and disinfection, it’s just too easy to rub your infected eyes and then forget when you shake hands, use the computer, telephone, and almost any work surface. That’s why many eye doctors say the workplace should be off-limits for anyone with pink eye. It really is that contagious.

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