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Can you get Pink Eye from a Fart? What Actually Causes Conjunctivitis?

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a man rubs his infected eye, wondering if he has gotten pink eye from a fart

We’ve heard the question asked countless times: “can you get pink eye from a fart?” Farting on a pillowcase causing pink eye is a widespread myth in schoolyards and popular culture. The simple answer is no; farts don’t cause pink eye.

But there’s more to it when it comes to conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels in the membrane that covers the white part of your eye called the sclera. Knowing how you can actually get pink eye can help you protect your eye health and stay prepared when it comes to your eye care.

What’s The Deal With Pink Eye & Farts?

The myth that farts can cause pink eye has been preserved in popular culture for years. Whether you heard it on the playground as a kid or watched “Knocked Up” in 2007, we’ve all encountered it, and as eye doctors, we’ve been asked about it plenty of times.

The truth is, farting doesn’t cause pink eye. Farts are mainly made up of methane gas. Farts don’t contain any bacteria, one of the primary causes of pink eye. Any bacteria in a fart dies quickly after leaving the body, so farting on a pillow can’t cause pink eye.

What Actually Gives You Pink Eye?

The ‘farting on a pillow’ myth is incorrect, but there are still ways you can get pink eye. Poop contains bacteria and viruses that don’t die when they leave the body. Particles can travel to your eyes quickly, especially after using the bathroom. 

There are a few different types of conjunctivitis: 

  • Viral
  • Bacterial 
  • Allergic
  • Chemical

Each type of conjunctivitis causes similar symptoms, including redness and irritation. They differ in how they spread to others and how they get treated.

In the spring or fall, red and puffy eyes are often caused by allergic conjunctivitis. Contracting viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can require more thorough treatment since they can be passed to other people.

Chemical conjunctivitis is caused by smoke, liquids, fumes, or other chemicals in your eyes. Chlorine water in pools is a common cause of mild chemical conjunctivitis. However, other more severe causes require serious medical attention.

How Do You Prevent Conjunctivitis?

Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious. It’s crucial to follow the correct steps to prevent pink eye from spreading, including isolating for 2 days to a week to ensure you don’t pass your infection to anybody else. Bacterial conjunctivitis can also be passed from person to person, often through contact with contaminated items.

Practicing good hygiene is one of the principal ways of preventing pink eye, especially after using the bathroom. Some good hygiene tips include:

  • Avoiding sharing towels with others
  • Only using clean towels & washcloths
  • Washing your hands often
  • Taking care of your contact lenses

Taking these crucial steps can reduce your chances of getting pink eye.  In case you do end up with pink eye, it’s helpful to know your treatment options beforehand so you can be proactive about your eye care.

a man with conjunctivitis touches his face while isolating at home to not pass his pink eye onto anyone else

How Does Pink Eye Get Treated?

Many pink eye treatments focus on symptom relief. The most common treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis is an antibiotic eye drop. For viral conjunctivitis, you can use artificial tears to relieve irritation and let the infection run its course over 2–3 weeks.

Medications like antihistamines are usually effective at reducing irritation caused by allergies. For severe chemical conjunctivitis, rinse your eyes immediately after exposure, then contact an emergency center for medical assistance.

Get Real Eye Health Information

Treating pink eye starts with taking preventative steps like practicing good hygiene to prevent its spread. If you do need treatment, see your eye doctor so they can recommend a comprehensive treatment plan to bring you relief.

It’s easy to get swept up in pop culture myths like farts causing pink eye, but you shouldn’t rely on those myths. Get accurate eye health information from reputable sources so you can make informed decisions about your eye health.

Written by Dr. Joseph Rich

Dr. Joseph D. Rich moved to Columbia shortly after completing his doctorate at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. Growing up and completing his undergraduate work in biology, chemistry, and business management at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO, Dr. Rich considers himself a full-fledged Mizzou fan and actively enjoys going to as many games as possible.
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