COVID-19 and the Eyes
When a sick person coughs or talks, virus particles can spray from their mouth or nose into another person’s face, which can enter through your eyes. People who have coronavirus can also spread the illness through their tears. Touching tears or a surface where tears have landed can be another portal to infection. You can also become infected by touching something that has the virus on it — like a table or doorknob — and then touching your eyes.
Coronavirus may cause pink eye — but it’s rare
Health officials believe viral pink eye, or conjunctivitis, develops in about 1% to 3% of people with coronavirus.
Four ways to help yourself and others:
It’s important to remember that although there is concern about coronavirus, common sense precautions can significantly reduce your risk of getting infected. Wash your hands often, follow good contact lens hygiene and avoid touching or rubbing your nose, mouth and especially your eyes.
- 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. Always wash your hands before inserting or removing your contact lenses.
- 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. If you’re caring for a sick patient or potentially exposed person, safety goggles may offer a stronger defense.
- Stock up on eye medicine prescriptions if you can.
Experts advise patients to stock up on critical medications, so that you’ll have enough to get by if you are quarantined or if supplies become limited. But this may not be possible for everyone. If your insurance allows you to get more than 1 month of essential eye medicine, such as glaucoma drops, you should do so. Some insurers will approve a 3-month supply of medication in times of natural disaster. Ask your pharmacist or our office for help if you have trouble getting approval from your insurance company. And as always, request a refill as soon as you’re due. Don’t wait until the last minute to contact your pharmacy.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes.
While it can be hard to break this natural habit, doing so will lower your risk of infection. If you feel an urge to itch or rub your eye or even to adjust your glasses, use a tissue instead of your fingers. Dry eyes can lead to more rubbing, so consider adding moisturizing drops to your eye routine. If you must touch your eyes for any reason — even to administer eye medicine — wash your hands first with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we do our part to limit the spread of the coronavirus while continuing to provide the highest quality care.