Difference Between Allergies and Pink Eye

Red and itchy eyes require immediate remedy or else, it can hinder productivity. These two symptoms may mean you have either pink eyes or just allergies. This can be confusing when you are trying to find the proper remedy.

Since both have similar symptoms like discomfort, discharge, and redness, figuring out whether you have allergies or pink eye can be tricky.

Here is a guide to help you tell the difference between an allergic reaction and a contagious pink eye.

Accurately distinguishing the difference between the two determines the best treatment and knowing whether or not you are contagious.

Is It Pink Eye or Allergies?

So what sets them apart? Here is how to discern the difference between allergies and pink eye.

The main difference comes down to a few specific symptoms. There are different types of conjunctiva inflammation.

Red and itchy eyes with watery discharge are some of the telltale signs of conjunctivitis but each type possesses distinguishing characteristics.

Bacterial Pink Eye – This can occur in one or both eyes. This has more crusting and discharge which are yellowish or greenish. Opening the eyelids in the morning may be very difficult because they may be stuck together.

Viral Pink Eye – This type is the most common type of pink eye and is extremely contagious. A respiratory infection or cold or flu virus is typically its cause. It may also occur in one or both eyes and has a comparable appearance to an allergic pink eye.

Allergic Conjunctivitis – This type is triggered by distinct allergens and affects both eyes. It is followed by other allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, and nasal congestion. The eyelids may be swollen and the eyes may be sensitive to light.

Chemical Conjunctivitis – This type is caused by an irritant that came in contact with the eye.

Pink eye is also known as conjunctiva infection in medical terms. It occurs when the conjunctiva, the white part of the eye becomes infected.

A burning sensation, reddening, inflammation, itching, and increased production of tears are just a few indicators of pink eye. However, only viral and bacterial pink eyes are contagious.

“Someone who has pink eye will usually have a discharge that starts in one eye and spreads to two eyes,” says Wuqaas M. Munir, MD. “It feels more irritated like something is in the eye versus an itchy eye for allergies.” he added.

Aside from the cause, the difference between allergies and pink eye particularly is the discharge consistency. A thick pus-like discharge that makes your eyelids stick together is usually a clear sign of bacterial conjunctivitis.

Inflammation usually starts with one eye and can spread to the other eye particularly if you regularly rub your eyes.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and is only triggered by allergens such as pollen and dust. Your body releases histamine which causes inflammation in response to allergens.

“If we look under the eyelid we may find bumps indicative of allergies called papillae,” says Jules Winokur, MD.

Treatment and Prevention

Bacterial pink eye can be treated with antibiotics. However, the viral pink eye does not respond to antibiotics although eye drops can help treat your symptoms.

For allergies, antihistamines, corticosteroids, and eye drops can help treat the allergy overall.

To prevent bacterial or viral pink eye, wash and sanitize your hands often, avoid sharing eye products, regularly clean contact lenses, and avoid other people infected with pinkeye.

To prevent allergy symptoms, note your allergy history and avoid common allergens. Regularly wash and clean your home, bedsheets, and pillowcases. Use allergy medication.

Most cases of pink eye are mild and will clear up on their own in 1-2 weeks without treatment.

However, if you want to speed up the healing process or if symptoms persist, seek your healthcare provider or a trusted ophthalmologist for the best treatment plan.

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