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Published on February 13, 2014

Bob Costas’ Pinkeye:What You Should Know & How You Can Avoid It

If you’ve been paying attention to the Sochi Olympics, you’ve probably also seen coverage of another developing event: Bob Costas’ eye infection.

After battling conjunctivitis in his left eye and now his right for the last couple of days, the prime-time Olympics news anchor for NBC recently announced that he’s going off the air until further notice—or at least until the pinkeye goes away.

But as Costas’ teary red eyes make headlines, conjunctivitis has also been forced into the spotlight.

So what exactly is Costas going through?

Pinkeye is the result of inflammation or infection of the membrane that covers the whites of your eyes. “[It] has four main causes: Virus or bacteria (infection), or allergens and irritants (environment),” said Dr. Margot Boigon, Associate Program Director of Internal Medicine Residency Program at Abington Memorial Hospital.

While you’ve already seen that pinkeye can cause symptoms such as swollen red eyes, other signs of infection include itchiness, a gritty feeling in the eye, a discharge from the eye that forms a crust during the night, and tearing. Although it can be extremely irritating and uncomfortable, conjunctivitis doesn’t have a long term effect on vision in any way.

Since it is a contagious condition, it’s essential that it’s diagnosed and treated as soon as possible to prevent it from spreading to others. “For most patients with conjunctivitis, the question is when they can return to work and are no longer contagious,” said Dr. Boigon. “With bacterial, it is usually 24 hours after antibiotics have started. With viral, people are contagious as long as symptoms last.”

Depending on what type of infection Costas has, he’ll either need to take antibiotics or let the infection run its course. “Viral pinkeye usually clears up in one to two weeks and most cases are usually mild if caused by a cold virus,” said Dr. Boigon. “If this is the case, I would think Mr. Costas would be back before the Olympics are over.” But if it’s caused by something more serious, Dr. Boigon says it may be longer before he’s back to work.

To prevent conjunctivitis, it’s important to practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands often and using a clean towel or washcloth daily. Additionally, avoid touching your eyes with your hands, don’t share towels with others, and change your pillowcase often. Never share eye cosmetics or any other type of personal eye care item as well.

And if all this fails, maybe Matt Lauer will fill in for you at work, too.

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