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Protect Yourself from a Bob Costas-Like Eye Infection

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Ashley Wagner Face” and Gumby-like Russian figure skater Yulia Lipnitskaya aren't the only breakout stars to come out of the 2014 Winter Olympics so far. Rivaling them for the spotlight is Bob Costas' ongoing eye infection.

At the start of the Sochi Games last Friday, the veteran NBC broadcaster, who is hosting his ninth Olympics, announced he was wearing glasses and keeping his distance from athletes after waking up with an eye infection that left his swollen left lid shut. Rather than improving, the infection has since spread to his right eye, which is why he's taking tonight off and passing the primetime Olympic torch to colleague Matt Lauer in the meantime.

"I just feel bad for him. He looks forward to these Games for so long, and he's the best that's ever done it. If he could be in that seat, he'd be in that seat,'' a sympathetic Lauer told

The good news for Costas is that after tonight, he may be seeing more clearly. “If he has just a viral pink eye, or conjunctivitis, it will last anywhere from three days to two weeks,” says ophthalmologist Richard A. Norden, M.D., founder of Norden Laser Eye Associates in New Jersey. “Though it often has to get worse before it gets better, it's in his favor that it's infecting both eyes. That means that it's unlikely that he has a cornea infection, which is more visually threatening."

Nobody can know for sure how Costas got the infection. It could have been washing his hands with Sochi tap water and then putting in his contacts, or perhaps dry contacts from a long flight to Russia. “Airplanes tend to have no humidity, so lenses can get stuck on the eye," Norden says. "When they loosen up, they can tear off a little bit of the outer layer of the cornea and provide a portal for bacteria to get in." 

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If you wake up with red, swollen, watery eyes, Norden recommends taking three steps:

1. Don't wear contacts. If the redness doesn't go away in 30 minutes, you need to remove your contacts right away. Contacts keep the temperature of the tears under the lens high, which makes it a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. So if you have an early infection, wearing contacts may feel better at first, but it will actually make the infection multiply much more rapidly. Wear your glasses until the redness is gone or you can see an eye doctor who can help you address the situation.

2. Skip the shadow and liner. Eye makeup does have bacteria on it, but it's rare that the makeup itself will cause the infection. However, it may help exacerbate things, so leave your peepers totally bare.

3. Take the day off work. Take a cue from Costas and call in sick. If you wake up in the morning and your eyes are puffy, red, and swollen and they're not itchy (as they would be if it were allergies), then you need to stay home to avoid spreading what you have. Check in with your eye doctor to make sure it's nothing serious. Additional symptoms to look out for that may indicate an infection include eye discharge and light sensitivity. If your vision has grown worse, then that's a real five-alarm fire. See your doctor immediately.


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