Do I have pink eye?
January 22, 2006 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Could I have pink eye?

So, I've been sick the past few days (I'm assuming I caught what my girlfriend had, which subsided a few days before I became sick.) Runny and stuffed nose, sinus headache, hacking cough (no real sore throat though). I was like this for 3 days, and then waking up on the fourth day I could barely open my eyes. My eyes were basically glued shut with sticky, stringly, green goop. When I finally got them open, my eyes were extremely red and bloodshot. Throughout the day they were very sensitive, and gooping up frequently. Today though, while they were stuck this morning, they overall seem better (much less goop, but still red.)

Could this be pink eye? The intarwebs says "probably" but I've never had it and never have known anyone with it (except cats.) I already have a doctor appointment for tomorrow, so I don't need to be told to go see one. Is it a bad idea to go to my classes, though? The appointment isn't until the afternoon, and I have class from 8-12. Any advice, anecdotal or otherwise, is welcome.
posted by Loto to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
Since conjunctivitis can be caused by a cold or virus, and that sounds like what you had previous... it sure sounds like you have pink eye.

Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are the only two causes that are contagious. They are spread by contact with the eye drainage or tears.

* Bacterial is no longer contagious after 36 to 48 hours of antibiotic drops.
* Viral has no treatment, except to relieve the symptoms. It can be contagious as long as the eyes are red.

If class isn't crucial, I'd say bag it for at least a day to get the antibiotics going and let your professor/supervisor know why. Me, I wouldn't want to see someone with conjunctivitis show up at work and share common areas, doorknobs, etc with me.
posted by jerseygirl at 11:36 AM on January 22, 2006

If you're in class, that means you're likely a student and there is likely a student health center. Go there in the morning before class - if it's pink eye, it's ridiculously contagious. If you were sitting beside me in class with pink eye, and I didn't know and you gave it to me, I'd be royally pissed off. It's your responsibility not to spread stuff like this if you're aware of it - and at 8am, we're all rubbing our eyes. Sorry if this sounds mean, but this is why sick days were invented - just make sure to catch up on work and let your prof know. They'll be thankful you're not spreading it to them (and their kids, their TAs, etc.)
posted by fionab at 11:39 AM on January 22, 2006

Best answer: Sounds like it. Pinkeye is basically a cold in your eye and can be viral or bacterial.

If it's bacterial they'll give you antibiotic drops (usually gentamycin) and I believe these can actually be dispensed by a pharmacist without a prescription, so it would be worth calling your pharmacy and checking--you're considered to be noncontagious after 24 hours of treatment, so if you act fast, you could make class tomorrow.

They'll usually push the drops at you even if it's viral, which is silly, but it's hard to tell between the two. My understanding is that the viral form isn't contagious, or as contagious (I've been given different stories by different doctors on this one).

Otherwise, try and keep your fingers out of your eyes, and wash your hands frequently. If you don't treat with antibiotics, I'd skip your class. It does sound like yours is on the wane though.

I have two small children for whom pinkeye is a seasonal rite of passage, and I don't even call the pediatrician for it any more, I just keep a stash of gentamycin drops on hand.
posted by padraigin at 11:40 AM on January 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend gets conjunctivitis more than she should as a result of wearing her contacts for years without paying attention to lubrication.

Yes, you sound like you have it, and not in a small way.
Yes, go to the doc, take what he/she tells you, use the drops, rest your eyes for a few days.
Yes, go to class if you can still read what you need to, just make sure you don't rub your eyes and keep your hands clean.
posted by NinjaPirate at 11:41 AM on January 22, 2006

DO NOT go to class. Pink eye is contagious, and determining whether or not you're still able to spread it is much more difficult and unreliable than just staying home and doing whatever you can not to spread it to others. It's an entirely valid reason to miss class and any teacher who gives you crap for it is a jerk.
posted by incessant at 11:42 AM on January 22, 2006

OK, as everyone else say "NO!!!", don't go to class. You won't exactly be a biohazard if you're not playing with your eyes, but I suppose no-one will thank you if you are generous with the goop.
And you get to stay in bed - bonus!

I'm just a livin'-on-the-edge kind of a guy.
posted by NinjaPirate at 11:47 AM on January 22, 2006

I'd say go to class -- but wash your hands before touching your eye, be cuse it's ultra-sensitive. And wash your hands after touching your eye, so as not to leave infectious matter on everything you touch.

Eye infections don't spread through the air. Hand-washing is the way to avoid spreading the infection or getting the infection.

You have enough problems already -- skipping class is just going to get you further behind.

You can remove goop with a cloth, paper towel, cotton ball, etc -- wet with warm water.
posted by wryly at 11:47 AM on January 22, 2006

If you do go to class, consider bringing some antibacterial gel with you--and use it generously before you touch doorknobs and such. It would be a nice courtesy to your classmates.

I say this as a person who is not at all a germophobe.
posted by padraigin at 11:56 AM on January 22, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, everyone. I am going to go to the doctor when they open tomorrow morning, rather than wait for my afternoon appointment. The sooner I can get those eyedrops and stop being contageious, the better.

I'm going to take everyones advice about just skipping class, as after thinking about it I'd rather not be sitting in the same seat as someone who had pink eye. I'm not worried too much about my classes, as I can get a lot of reading done while I'm in bed. My teachers are sure to be understanding, too, especially if I email them a picture of my eyes.
posted by Loto at 12:29 PM on January 22, 2006

Best answer: Hi Loto! You can use baby shampoo to clean the goop and get the redness/soreness out of your eyes. It's quite safe and really helps clear up the visible symptoms of pinkeye faster. Three times a day is fine. Another thing I've used that worked quite well (please note this is *completely* at your own risk, since it contains alcohol) is antibacterial hand gel on a q-tip to clean where the eyelashes meet the lid, all the way around the eye. That hand gel is great for wiping your hands often so you don't spread pinkeye germs. I would go to class if the symptoms were under control and I was very careful about keeping my hands clean and away from my eyes. Of course a day off wouldn't hurt if you can spare it.
posted by Melinika at 5:02 PM on January 22, 2006

IAAST: our elementary school policy: pink eye is an automatic send-home... it's sooooper catchy... and, if you get it in a bad way it really sucks. one of the worst things kids bring to school, imho.
posted by RockyChrysler at 6:52 PM on January 22, 2006

Response by poster: So, it was more than likey viral pink eye. Much better now, the doctor gave me drops anyways (Sulfacetamide Sodium Sol'n) and a cough syrup with codine so I could sleep. Still have a nasty cough, but in general the condition has improved significantly with little missed class time. The doc gave me the aokay to go as long as I wasn't having people poke mye eyes for quarters.
posted by Loto at 8:14 PM on January 24, 2006

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