Some people experience a sore throat and pink eye at the same time. This is usually because of a virus. Viruses are the most common cause of pink eye and may also cause cold or flu-like symptoms.

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the layer of tissue covering the eye.

One of the most common causes of both pink eye and a sore throat is adenovirus. Adenovirus infections can cause pharyngoconjunctival fever. Pharyngoconjunctival fever causes a sore throat, pink eye, fever, and sometimes chills, muscle pain, and other symptoms.

Less commonly, bacterial infections can cause conjunctivitis and a sore throat. A person may need antibiotics to treat these infections, though they often resolve on their own without treatment.

Read on to learn more about pink eye and a sore throat.

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Pink eye is a result of the conjunctiva — the moist layer of tissue covering the eyeball and inner eyelids — becoming swollen and irritated. Below are the potential causes.

Viral infections

Viral infections are among the most common causes of pink eye. Any virus that affects the upper respiratory tract could potentially cause a sore throat and pink eye. Some examples include:

  • rubella
  • herpes viruses
  • enterovirus
  • coxsackievirus

However, adenovirus is one of the most common causes.

Adenoviruses that infect both the throat and the eyes cause pharyngoconjunctivitis, or pharyngoconjunctival fever. With this infection, a person may experience a sore throat, fever, muscle aches, swollen tonsils, chills, and other signs of illness.

COVID-19 is another potential cause of pink eye. It is possible for pink eye to be the only symptom, as detailed in a 2021 case report.

Bacterial infections

Bacteria that affect both the throat and the eyes may also cause pink eye and a sore throat. Some potential causes include:

Bacterial conjunctivitis often resolves on its own, but some conditions that cause it, such as strep infections, can sometimes cause harmful complications without antibiotics. It is important to contact a doctor if the cause could be bacterial.

Noninfectious causes

People can also develop pink eye for other reasons, such as exposure to harmful chemicals or allergens. Breathing in these substances may irritate the throat as well as the eyes, causing soreness.

Because many things can cause pink eye and a sore throat, it can be difficult for a person to tell what the cause is based on symptoms alone.

If it is possible a person might have COVID-19, they should get a test. This may help confirm or rule out COVID-19 as a cause.

A person could also reach out to any friends or family they have recently been in contact with to ask if they, or others they know, currently have infections.

If the symptoms began after exposure to a potential allergen or irritant, this could be the cause.

There are also some differences in symptoms between viral, bacterial, and allergic conjunctivitis. For example:

  • viral conjunctivitis is more likely to cause thin, watery discharge from the eye
  • viral conjunctivitis is also more likely to cause a lymph node to swell in front of the ear
  • bacterial conjunctivitis is more likely to cause thick, sticky eye discharge
  • allergic conjunctivitis may also cause sneezing, an itchy throat, itchy eyes, or wheezing

Still, the symptoms can be very similar. A person may need to contact a doctor for a diagnosis if the symptoms do not get better on their own.

In adults, most forms of conjunctivitis can resolve on their own. This is especially true for viral conjunctivitis, which usually gets better without any medical treatment.

In the meantime, some things that may help with the symptoms include:

  • cough drops
  • throat lozenges
  • cold or flu medications
  • artificial tears, which may help with dry or scratchy eyes

Bacterial conjunctivitis can sometimes go away without treatment in 1 week. In certain cases, though, it requires topical antibiotics or oral antibiotics.

Allergic conjunctivitis may respond well to allergy eye drops or antihistamines.

Home treatment for pink eye and a sore throat may ease the symptoms. Strategies that may help with conjunctivitis include:

  • keeping the eyelids clean using moist cotton swabs
  • applying warm compresses to the eyelids
  • avoiding the use of contact lenses and eye makeup until the symptoms go away

Home remedies for a sore throat include:

  • gargling saltwater
  • sucking on ice chips
  • drinking warm liquids
  • taking honey, although children younger than 1 year old should avoid this

If a person feels congested or has a cough, humid environments such as a steamy shower may also help.

Infectious conjunctivitis is highly contagious. To help prevent spreading it, a person should try:

  • avoiding touching the eyes
  • washing the hands thoroughly with soap before and after touching the eye area
  • disposing of or laundering anything that touches the eye rather than reusing it
  • avoiding sharing towels, facecloths, or pillows with others

Children with infectious conjunctivitis may need to stay home from school to avoid spreading the illness.

People with pink eye and a sore throat should speak with a doctor if:

  • they also have a fever, pain in the eyes, blurred vision, or light sensitivity
  • home care and over-the-counter medications do not help or make things worse
  • the symptoms do not get better on their own in 2 weeks

Call 911 or go to the emergency room if:

  • symptoms suddenly become severe
  • the area around the eye becomes swollen and tender
  • there is a change in vision, such as vision loss
  • a newborn has conjunctivitis
  • a child with these symptoms has a high fever, becomes lethargic, or stops eating or drinking

Pink eye and a sore throat commonly occur together. Usually, these symptoms result from a viral infection, such as a cold virus. Bacterial infections, allergens, and pollutants can also potentially cause them.

Often, the infections that cause pink eye and a sore throat resolve on their own. When they do not, medical treatment can help. In some cases, a person may need antibiotics.

People with severe symptoms or symptoms that do not improve on their own should speak with a doctor.