"Usually Mild and Easy to Treat," reads the headline on the pinkeye entry on the CDC's website. Tell that to Bob Costas, who will again be forced to remain off-camera for tonight's NBC (tape-delayed) primetime telecast from Sochi.
When the long-time NBC reporter woke up yesterday his eyes were "swollen and crusted shut," according to the New York Times, which spoke with Costas by phone yesterday after it was announced that he'd miss his first NBC Olympic primetime broadcast in more than a quarter of a century. "You hear it called pinkeye or conjunctivitis, but, as a practical matter, I haven’t had it before," the freakishly youthful-looking 61-year-old sports anchor told the paper. "You have swelling and stinging and burning and eventually tearing."
Watching Costas suffer—and, at one point, drink through—the discomfort during the Olympics first few days left viewers (including plenty here at Slate) with one pressing but simple question: "How do I make sure that never happens to me?!" (A query filled with dread, as opposed to usual ones that dominate our attention during the Olympics, like: What are those gray crotch circles on the Americans' speedskating uniforms? or, Could a female ski jumper soar past the best men in the sport?)
The easy answer: Wash your hands, and do your best to avoid touching or rubbing your eyes. According to the men and women at the CDC, that's the best way to avoid conjunctivitis from taking hold. A few other tips that will help you avoid being forced to cede the spotlight to Matt Lauer (or, you know, whoever your personal Matt Lauer is at work or in life) in the first place?
- Don't share things like towels, blankets, and pillowcases (with anyone)
- Speaking of towels, pillowcases and the like, go ahead and wash them all.
- If you wear eyeglasses, clean those too (after you clean the towel or cloth you want to use to do so)
- If you wear makeup, don't share that either.
And what causes pinkeye in the first place? The four usual suspects: viruses, bacteria, allergens (think pet dander or dust mites), or other irritants that infect or simply irritate the eye and/or eyelid (like smog or chlorine from a swimming pool). Depending on the cause, doctors have a variety of ways they can treat it, from antibiotics to eye drops. In most cases, however, pink-eyed patients largely just have to wait it out, a process that can take as little as a few days or as many as three weeks. More (expert) info here.