Pink eye can be caused by many different things, but it’s most often spread when someone who has the virus unknowingly rubs or touches his or her eyes. Less commonly, the infection can spread when someone breathes or coughs droplets containing the virus into the eyes of others. And in rare cases, pink eye can also be caused by certain STD bacteria, like Neisseria meningitidis and Chlamydia trachomatis.
The symptoms of viral conjunctivitis are similar to the common cold, so they typically come and go on their own within a week or two. But bacterial conjunctivitis, which is more serious than viral, requires prescription eye drops to treat. And it can cause more severe symptoms, including a runny nose, sore throat, rash and fever.
In general, if you have pink eye, it’s recommended that you stay home from work or school until your symptoms clear up. But if you do want to return, there are some tips you can follow to help prevent spreading the infection. Use a clean washcloth to gently wipe your eyes several times a day, and always wash your hands well afterward. Keep the nozzle of eyedrop bottles away from your eyes, and don’t share your droppers.
To fake red, irritated eyes, try not to blink for about 30 minutes or so. You can speed up this process by sitting in front of a fan, or by using a menthol stick (like those that actors use to create realistic crying scenes). A menthol stick is basically a waxy substance that comes in lipstick-shaped tubes. You just rub it under your eyes and wait for them to water.