The coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a new global health crisis that requires a new health protocol for eye protection. While the virus is known to leave the mouth and nose most vulnerable, studies have shown that it may also be transmitted through touching or rubbing your eyes. In order to protect your eyes from a viral infection, you should first understand how the virus can make its way into your body through your eyes.
The Virus Through Your Eyes
More and more information is gathered every day on the fairly new COVID-19 virus. So far, scientists found that the virus can make its way through any possible open passages of the body. That very much so includes your eyes.
Your eyes have natural protective mechanisms to keep irritants from entering your eyes. A good example of this is when you tear up when a gust of wind with dust or sand comes your way. Tears wash away these unwanted particles away from your eyes. However, the coronavirus isn’t like your average dust mite. The virus, which is transmitted through aerosolized respiratory droplets, has the ability to bind to the eye’s proteins, similar to what it can do to the lining of the throat and nose. They can also find their way to tear ducts, which tears can transfer to the nose.
You simply rubbing your eye may lead to infection. How? Your hands are part of your body that touches every surface. If you unknowingly touch an unsanitized surface and rub your eye, you could potentially be introducing the virus into your body. Rubbing your eye was already a heavily discouraged behavior by ophthalmologists as it can cause a bacterial eye infection. Now in the middle of a health crisis, this bad habit can be more detrimental.
Being spoken to by someone talking without a mask is also another way the virus can be transmitted. Anyone talking to you at a close distance can disperse thousands of droplets of their saliva in a matter of minutes. When the eyes are exposed and the person they were talking to had been a carrier, there is a likelihood of viral transmission.
The Coronavirus and its Connection to Conjunctivitis
The common symptoms of COVID-19 are much like the symptoms of the common flu, however they are not the same thing. The virus affects many people in many different ways with possible symptoms that are not associated with the flu. In fact, studies have shown that pink eye (conjunctivitis) may be a probable symptom of the virus. This was observed among a significant percentage of children who tested positive with the virus. However, it does occur in a small percentage of adults as well.
How to Protect Your Eyes Amidst the Pandemic
Talk with a Mask on and Stay at a Distance
Masks, along with other preventive measures like physical distancing, have been proven to be effective in reducing the likelihood of the spread of the virus. The mask prevents your saliva, as the speaker, from transmitting to someone you’re talking to. But while the mouth and nose may be protected by the layer the mask adds, the eyes are left vulnerable. That is how staying at a distance can be much safer. Droplets of the person you’re conversing with will be less likely to reach you if you are six feet apart.
Wear a Face or Eye Shield
Face shields, or eye shields, are one of the other preventive measures in stopping the spread of the virus used widely in Europe and Asia. Having that layer of protection that fully covers your eyes may significantly prevent viral transmission. It is, however, important to note that they are not an alternative to masks. They are an added layer of protection to supplement your mask.
Glasses as Eye Shields?
Glasses may act as an added physical protective layer to your eyes. They can shield you from infected droplets similar to the function of the face shield. But it is important to note that it is not a full one hundred percent reassurance. Make it a habit to constantly sanitize your glasses and clean them properly after going outside or after conversations.
Do Not Touch Your Face or Rub Your Eye
As mentioned earlier, it is important to keep contact with the hands to the face to a minimum. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching any part of your face, including your eyes. As hands are the most exposed, you would need to keep them away from your face as much as possible.
Can I Still Wear My Contact Lens?
The answer is it depends. To be on the safe side, it is advisable to go back to correctional glasses for the meantime. Aside from adding another layer of protection, switching back to glasses is recommended in order to minimize contact with your eye and fingers. However, you can still wear your contact lens as long as standard hygiene protocols are followed. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before putting them on and before removing them. They should also be replaced frequently.
Do Not Share Your Pillowcases or Towels
Any surface where your eyes come into contact should only be used by you. Pillowcases and sheets need to be changed a lot more now at home.
If you’re planning a trip to see family where you will most definitely be sleeping at a hotel, it is advisable to pack your own pillowcase and towel. No matter how often hotel establishments keep their rooms sanitized, it is an extra precaution that you can do to ensure your safety.
There is so much left that is not known about this virus, however, what is known is the many effective steps that people can take to protect themselves and others and from the worst possible scenario. Your eyes need protection in this pandemic as well, especially since they are left vulnerable even with a mask on. Take on the social responsibility to use every preventive measure necessary to keep yourself safe as well as minimize the possibility of the spread of the virus.