Eye Protection May Reduce COVID-19 Infection
COVID-19 transmission usually happens through close contact. For example, you touch something then touch your face. Or, you come in contact or in close proximity with an infected person, and they cough or sneeze (or even talk loudly or sing). Poor ventilation also plays a role, especially in small areas.
There’s no concrete proof the average person needs to wear eye protection to guard against COVID-19. However, since the potential for contracting the coronavirus increases with close contact, especially in small spaces with poor ventilation, it makes sense for those with increased risk to consider added protection.
“Wearing eye protection may make COVID-19 transmission about three times less likely… The risk of transmission was reduced from 16% to 5.5% on average for people who protected their eyes with goggles, face shields and other PPE compared to those who didn’t apply eye covering.” (The Lancet)
The higher the risk of infection, the more likely that additional measures like eye protection provide substantial defense against the coronavirus. In addition to social distancing, hand washing, and wearing face masks, using eye protection such as goggles, visors and face shields, may help reduce chances of infection.
The CDC recommends “eye protection and face masks in locations with moderate to substantial community transmission to protect the eyes, nose and mouth from splashes and sprays of infections material from others.”
Eye Transmission of COVID-19
Being infected with COVID-19 through your eyes is, according to experts, much less common than through your nose or mouth. There are two reasons, according to NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres, why this is the case:
- The coronavirus is a respiratory virus, so it’s more “attuned” to the nose or mouth.
- When someone sneezes, most people react by blinking. This helps prevents droplets from entering eyes.
Whether or not you should protect your eyes from COVID-19 depends on your situation. You probably should wear eye protection if you:
- Cannot practice social distancing.
- Are around anyone coughing or sneezing a lot.
- Have a preexisting health condition.
- Are in a small space with poor ventilation.
This means that medical personnel may want to wear eye protection. So, too, might anyone in regular contact with the public such as bus drivers, supermarket workers, and restaurant employees. For the majority of people, however, eye protection probably won’t offer much benefit.
Most Common COVID-19 PPE
The most ideal form of eye protection for those regularly exposed to COVID-19 through close contact with others is a non-vented goggle because it creates an airtight seal around the eyes. As always when it comes to safety eyewear, though, the best type of protection depends on a person’s environment and risk level.
The most common types of COVID-19 related PPE items purchased include the following safety eyewear:
No single intervention provides 100% protection against COVID-19. However, combining PPE (i.e., goggles, visors, face shields, facemasks) with handwashing can significantly reduce the risk. This is especially true for those with underlying medical conditions or with increased risk of exposure.
There are also some tips that can also help reduce the risk for transmission of coronavirus through your eyes.
Tips from Eye Experts
Guarding your eyes, hands, nose, and mouth can slow the spread of COVID-19. This is especially true for those at high risk of exposure whether from their nearness to an infected person or because of increased risk through frequent interaction with large numbers of people.
Experts at the American Academy of Ophthalmology provide the following recommendations for anyone concerned about contracting the coronavirus through their eyes.
- If you wear contacts, be aware of the increased risk they may promote. Stay diligent with hand washing and avoid touching your face, and practice good contact lens hygiene.
- Consider switching to glasses if you usually wear contacts. People who wear contacts tend to touch their eyes more frequently than those who do not. So, wearing glasses at least part of the time may reduce hand to face contact.
- Wear eyeglasses or sunglasses. Regular eyewear may provide an added layer of protection. While the virus can still make its way to eyes through the sides and tops of lenses, there may still be some added protection.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes. This will lower your risk of infection simply because you are not touching your hands to your face, which increases the potential for infection.
- Practice good hygiene and social distancing. Wash your hands a lot. Don’t touch your hands to your face without first washing your hands.
Eye Protection Can Reduce the Risk
No recommendations have been made for the general public regarding eyewear protection against the coronavirus. At the same time, the CDC has found that…
“Physical distancing plays the greatest role in reducing the spread of COVID-19, and eye protection could reduce the risk of infection from 16% to 6% compared to those without eye protection.”
For the majority of people, eye protection probably won’t bring much protection from the coronavirus. However, anyone with an underlying health condition or who works with the public may want to consider safety eyewear. Combined with other protection measures, it can help reduce the risk.