Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

A woman holding glasses and rubbing eyes.

Do I Need Antibiotics for Pink Eye?

Pink eye happens when there is inflammation of the covering of the eyeball and the inside of the eyelid. It can be caused by an infection from a virus or bacteria. It can also be caused by allergies. For this page, we’ll focus on pink eye caused by infection.

Why You Might Need Antibiotics for Pink Eye

Pink eye will often go away on its own in 7-10 days. Pink eye is usually caused by a virus and will go away on its own. Sometimes pink eye can be caused by bacteria and if so an antibiotic may be needed. If the symptoms of pink eye get worse, see your primary care provider.

Symptoms of Pink Eye

  • The whites of the eyes are pink or red
  • Teary, itchy eyes
  • Eyelids maybe swollen
  • There could be pus or thick discharge and this could make the eyelids sticky

Prevention of Pink Eye

Pink eye is very contagious and can spread very easily. Here are ways to prevent spreading pink eye:

  • Frequent hand washing with plain soap
  • Avoid touching or rubbing the eye with symptoms and wash your hands right away if you touch the eye with symptoms
  • If there is discharge from the infected eye, this can be cleaned twice a day. With a single stroke wipe from the inside of the eye to the outside with a damp tissue. With a new tissue, blot dry. Do not touch the uninfected eye.
  • If possible, use paper towels instead of cloth towels to wash and dry hands and face. If this is not possible, ensure others do not use the towels used by the person with the infected eye.
  • Do not share towels or bed linens with anyone who has pink eye. These items should also be washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer. They would also be washed separately from other’s laundry.

For considerations on when your child needs to stay home from school or daycare when they have pink eye, please see Quick Guide to Common Childhood Diseases.

In British Columbia, you can call HealthLink BC (at 8-1-1) or visit if you need advice or are unsure of the best course of action.

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