Experts say guarding your eyes — as well as your hands and mouth — can slow the spread of coronavirus. Here’s why it's important to protect your eyes during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and some ways you can help yourself and others.
Coronavirus can spread through the eyes
Coronavirus causes mild to severe respiratory illness. Symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath can show up 2 to 14 days after a person is exposed. People with severe infections can develop pneumonia and die from complications of the illness. Limiting eye exposure can help. Here’s why:
When a sick person coughs or talks, virus particles can spray from their mouth or nose into another person’s face. You’re most likely to inhale these droplets through your mouth or nose, but they can also enter through your eyes.
You can also become infected by touching something that has the virus on it — like a table or doorknob — and then touching your eyes.
How to help yourself and others:
“It’s important to remember that although there is a lot of concern about coronavirus, common sense precautions can significantly reduce your risk of getting infected. So wash your hands a lot, follow good contact lens hygiene and avoid touching or rubbing your nose, mouth and especially your eyes,” says ophthalmologist Sonal Tuli, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
1. If you wear contact lenses, switch to glasses for a while.
Contact lens wearers touch their eyes more than the average person. “Consider wearing glasses more often, especially if you tend to touch your eyes a lot when your contacts are in. Substituting glasses for lenses can decrease irritation and force you to pause before touching your eye,” Dr. Tuli advises. If you continue wearing contact lenses, follow these hygiene tips to limit your chances of infection.
2. Wearing glasses may add a layer of protection.
Corrective lenses or sunglasses can shield your eyes from infected respiratory droplets. But they don’t provide 100% security. The virus can still reach your eyes from the exposed sides, tops and bottoms of your glasses. If you’re caring for a sick patient or potentially exposed person, safety goggles may offer a stronger defense.
3. Clean your hands often.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, eaten, used the restroom, blown your nose, coughed or sneezed. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible, but especially with unwashed hands.