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Coronavirus: Eyes and Contact Lenses

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 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.

Your eyes could play a really important role in the spread and prevention of the coronavirus outbreak for a simple reason: you touch them a lot, often without realizing. And this is especially true if you wear contact lenses - now's the time to be extra vigilant about your contact lens routine!

Not many people know this, but your eyes and nose are also susceptible to bacteria and infections the same way your mouth is. This is expected to be the reason behind the Peking University physician Wang Guangfa getting infected, despite wearing a protective covering on his mouth. It is believed that Wang either touched his eyes or had some infected droplets land into his eyes.

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.

Coronavirus May Cause Pink Eye — But It’s Rare

If you see someone with pink eye, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean that person is infected with coronavirus. But health officials believe viral pink eye, or conjunctivitis, develops in about 1% to 3% of people with coronavirus. The virus can spread by touching discharge from an infected person’s eyes.

How to Cut Your Risk of Contracting Coronavirus

It's hard not to feel anxious when every day brings more news stories on the widespread effect of the virus, but it's imperative to keep your cool and stick to the facts.

Coronavirus Prevention Tips

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after coughing and sneezing, before and after applying your contact lenses, before preparing or eating food or after coming in contact with pets.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then dispose of it right away.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, contact lens case or solution bottle if your hands aren't washed.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, as even if they don't have the coronavirus, they could still pass on a cold that lowers your immune system. Same goes for you: if you're sick with a cold, stay at home.

  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects you touch often, such as doorknobs and stationary.

This post originally appeared on American Academy of Ophthalmology.


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