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Do you have to go on sick leave with conjunctivitis?
Do you have to go on sick leave with conjunctivitis?

Do I have dry eyes or conjunctivitis? And is conjunctivitis really that contagious? We clarified all questions with an ophthalmologist.


The eyes are red, the conjunctiva seems inflamed. Now the big question arises: should I go on sick leave? And when it comes to children: should I leave my child at home? Conjunctivitis can be highly contagious. But how do you recognize a contagious conjunctivitis? And what helps against the aching, red eyes? We spoke to the ophthalmologist Dr. Helga Azem spoken.

How do you recognize conjunctivitis?

"Conjunctivitis manifests itself in reddened eyes that burn and water. Aching, sticky eyes are further symptoms of conjunctivitis. The causes for this can be many. The word" conjunctival catarrh "is also popularly used for this clinical picture. It has become the use of the word for a slight conjunctivitis is naturalized. However, from a scientific point of view this is wrong."

What are the causes of conjunctivitis and when is it contagious?

"Conjunctivitis can be triggered either by bacteria, viruses or other causes. With regard to the risk of infection, it depends on the cause of the conjunctivitis. A red, burning, watery eye does not always have to indicate a bacterial or viral infection. The inflammation can For example, it can also be triggered by an allergy. A sign of an allergic conjunctivitis can be the additional itching.


“A red eye can also be triggered by mechanical stimuli. However, it can also be due to increased eye pressure or a deeper inflammation such as an iris inflammation. «

Bacterial conjunctivitis:

  • Purulent (yellow-greenish) secretion is secreted
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis is contagious
  • If people come into contact with the secretion and look at themselves, the conjunctivitis can be transmitted
  • Important: wash your hands

Viral conjunctivitis:

  • Are triggered by viruses
  • The eye is usually not purulent, slimy-watery secretion is secreted
  • Epidemic conjunctivitis is caused by a specific group of viruses
  • These viruses cause inflammation of the conjunctiva as well as the cornea
  • This conjunctivitis is highly contagious and is spreading like an epidemic
  • This epidemic conjunctivitis occurs more frequently in spring and autumn
  • The severity of this conjunctivitis depends, among other things, on the patient's immune system
  • There are no specific drugs for these viruses - you can only treat the symptoms
  • The redness and burning sensation can be treated
  • In some cases, antibiotics are also prescribed to prevent aggravation (superinfection) of the conjunctivitis caused by bacteria

“Fungi are also possible in the eye. However, this is extremely rare."

Do I have to stay at home if I have conjunctivitis?

"Conjunctivitis is similar to a cold. The question arises as to whether you should stay at home if you have a runny nose or a cold. This is often at your own discretion - it is the same with conjunctivitis. Except for epidemic conjunctivitis they are viruses that are no more contagious than a viral cold."

How do you know if you have epidemic conjunctivitis?

"It almost always begins in one eye. The second eye only becomes infected after one or two days. The epidemic conjunctivitis also begins very massively. From one day to the next, one eye is severely inflamed, swollen and glassy. In this case, it should you don't go to work, but to the ophthalmologist and, if necessary, get sick leave."

Children conjunctiva
Children conjunctiva

How do I know if I have bacterial or viral conjunctivitis? Or was it caused by an allergy?

"If you get up in the morning and both eyes are reddened or inflamed, you should definitely practice special hygiene and watch your eyes. Nevertheless, you should wash your hands frequently, not leave handkerchiefs lying around and, for example, use your own towel. The Reason: The conjunctivitis is transmitted by droplet infection. Therefore you should pay particular attention to hygiene. You should just be careful and to be safe still go to the doctor for an examination. If the reddening does not go away within a few hours and lasts for a day, then you should definitely see an ophthalmologist."

"A red eye that lasts longer than a day belongs to the ophthalmologist."

Should you go to the ophthalmologist or family doctor?

"To examine the eye very carefully, the doctor needs a slit lamp - a microscope with which one can examine the eye very carefully and determine the cause of the conjunctivitis. That is why patients should see an ophthalmologist. Often red eyes are dry eyes. These too should be examined and properly treated. The dry eye is a wetting disorder in which the composition of the tear film is disturbed. After an examination, the ophthalmologist will prescribe the correct individual tear replacement drops. In addition, the ophthalmologist or doctor will often initiate further examinations to clarify the causes."

What is the treatment of conjunctivitis? What can you do?

  • Cold compresses to relieve irritation and inflammation
  • Tear replacement drops are helpful for dry eyes
  • Important: The eye drops should NOT contain any preservatives (ask the pharmacy exactly about this)
  • Dry eyes require constant care
  • Special eye creams and drops against conjunctivitis are prescribed by ophthalmologists

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