As coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads around the world, health professionals are demanding that people limit their personal risk of contracting the virus by thoroughly washing their hands, practicing social distancing, and not touching their nose, mouth, or eyes. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that the eyes may play an role in spreading COVID-19.
Coronavirus is transmitted from person to person through droplets that an infected person sneezes or coughs out. These droplets can easily enter your body through the mucous membranes on the face, such as your nose, mouth, and your eyes.
But First, What Is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, causes mild to severe respiratory illness associated with fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Symptoms typically appear within 2 weeks of exposure. Those with acute cases of the virus can develop pneumonia and other life-threatening complications.
Here's what you should know:
Guard Your Eyes Against COVID-19
- Avoid rubbing your eyes. Although we all engage in this very normal habit, try to fight the urge to touch your eyes. If you absolutely must, first wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Tears carry the virus. Touching tears or a surface where tears have fallen can spread coronavirus. Make sure to wash your hands after touching your eyes and throughout the day as well.
- Disinfect surfaces. You can catch COVID-19 by touching an object or surface that has the virus on it, such as a door knob, and then touching your eyes.
Coronavirus and Pink Eye
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, refers to an inflammation of the membrane covering the front of the eyeball. Conjunctivitis is characterized by red, watery, and itchy eyes. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can be spread by coughing and sneezing, too.
According to a recent study in China, viral conjunctivitis may be a rare symptom of COVID-19. The study found conjunctival congestion in only 9 of the 1,099 patients (0.8%) who were confirmed to have coronavirus.
Contact Lenses and Eyeglasses
Many people who wear contact lenses may want to think about switching to eyeglasses for the time being to lower the threat of being infected with coronavirus by reducing the frequency of daily eye touching. If you choose to wear contacts lenses, make sure to properly wash and dry your hands prior to removing or inserting them. Avoid wearing contact lenses for more than 14 hours at a time, and replace them with fresh lenses as directed. Do not expose contact lenses to water. Unless you wear daily disposable lenses, be sure to use a disinfecting solution daily. Warning sign of serious eye infection are pain, cloudy vision and severe redness.
Unlike specialized safety goggles, regular glasses are not considered a safe way to prevent coronavirus. Wearing glasses may provide an extra layer of protection if someone coughs near you; if any infected droplets hit the lens and not your eye. However, one must still be cautious, as the virus can reach the eyes from the exposed sides of your frames. Another method of protection would to gently wash your glasses with warm water and soap, and dry them either using a microfiber cloth or allowing to air-dry on a towel.