How long is pink eye contagious? My son's child care has a policy that children with pink eye stay home until they're no longer contagious.

Answers from Dennis Robertson, M.D.

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) generally remains contagious as long as the eye continues to tear and produce a discharge. Signs and symptoms of pink eye usually improve within three to seven days. When tearing and discharge are no longer present, it's appropriate for a child to return to school or child care.

If the pink eye is caused by a bacterial infection, treatment with antibiotic drops or ointment for the eyes may be necessary. Some schools and child care facilities require that a child wait at least 24 hours after starting treatment before returning. Good hygiene — including hand-washing after touching the eyes — is important to minimize spread of the disease.

Jun. 27, 2012