Actress and singer Hilary Duff sparked confusion on social media Tuesday when she suggested that a recent eye infection she suffered was caused by “all the COVID tests at work.” Despite the Younger actress’s declaration, experts say that COVID-19 testing is an implausible explanation and the general public should not be concerned about such a side effect.
“It is unclear how a nasal swab could give you an eye infection,” says Yahoo Life Medical Contributor Dr. Dara Kass. “It’s more likely that she got it in her community and they were incidentally related.”
Dr. Brian Toy, an ophthalmologist and assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Roski Eye Institute, agrees. “It seems very unlikely,” Toy tells Yahoo Life. “The swabs that they use for COVID tests are sterile, and when they’re administered by a trained nurse or technician, they’re not causing unnecessary trauma, so it seems unlikely that nasal swabs would be causing eye infections.”
Duff, who had to quarantine in November after exposure to COVID-19, shared the details about her eye infection on Instagram, saying that she “took a little trip to the emergency room” and “needed antibiotics” to treat it. Kass says that antibiotics are often given in the event of conjunctivitis (or pink eye), which is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear tissue that covers the inside of the eye. Common causes of the infection include bacteria, allergies or a viral infection.
Although there have been several reports of individuals with COVID-19 experiencing eye infections, Kass says that the idea of it resulting from a COVID-19 test is illogical. “The bacteria that infects your eye in conjunctivitis is not what we’re testing for in COVID,” says Kass. “And she doesn’t even have COVID. So how would that be?” Kass adds that getting a COVID-19 test is likely one of the safer experiences you can have in 2021.
“We have more protective equipment and decreased contamination for COVID-19 testing than any other interaction in the world,” says Kass. “It is much more likely that she touched a surface and rubbed her eyes. There are a million reasons why she could have gotten conjunctivitis, it happens all the time — and although she may believe it happened from COVID testing, that would not make any sense to me.”
Toy agrees, adding that “ENT surgeons go into the nose and instrument the nose all the time for things like sinus surgery [and] there’s not an increased risk of infections in the eye because of that.” He confirms that conjunctivitis can be a symptom of COVID-19, but clarifies that this doesn’t affect testing. “Generally I think those would be unrelated,” he says. “The patient could have conjunctivitis and test positive for COVID, but it’s unlikely that a nasal swab would precipitate a conjunctivitis.”
A representative for Duff, who is pregnant with her third child, did not return Yahoo Life’s request for comment.
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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