Can You Get Covid Through Your Eyes?
- Posted on: Aug 7 2020
A recent article by CNN Health investigates whether protecting our noses and mouths is enough to protect us against coronavirus.
According to the clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Dr. Thomas Steinemann, “it’s certainly possible that a person could get Covid-19 through the eyes.”
As the World Health Organization confirmed this summer, we have recently heard people are actually getting infected with the virus from droplets which are floating in the air. So we wear masks and practice ‘social distancing’ in order for those droplets not to enter our bodies via our noses and mouths, but did you ever think whether those droplets can enter through our eyes?
This article confirms that the answer to that question is yes and the Center for Disease Control also warns that a person can actually catch the virus by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their eyes.
In March, when the Covid-19 pandemic started to really make its presence known in all US cities, ophthalmologists and optometrists were facing the reality that conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) was related to the virus. So much so, that many physicians pumped the brakes on seeing conjunctivitis patients in the office and started scheduling telehealth visits to avoid the potential risk of infection for other patients, and their staff members.
What the CNN article revealed, is that even though we can catch the virus through our eyes, it has been found less likely, that you would contract it that way versus through your nose or mouth. If the virus infects your corneas, or the surface of your eye, it would then be carried to your nose through your tears. Once it gets to your nose, then it would make its way to your airways and lungs eventually, which is a longer path than just going through your nose. Also, if it were really infecting a ton of patients through their eyes, experts speculate that they would likely see a higher number of Covid-19 patients with conjunctivitis. However, there are infections happening via people’s eyes, and for that we need to be conscious.
Well, now that we know this, and have added masks to our daily outfits, how do we protect our eyes?
Do we all need to add face shields or goggles to our Amazon carts?
Based on an interview with ABC News , Dr. Anthony Fauci (the doctor that America is very familiar with these days) did recommend eye coverings by sharing “If you really want perfect protection of your mucosal surfaces … you have mucosa in the nose, mucosa in the mouth, but you also have you mucosa in the eye. Theoretically, you should protect all the mucosal surfaces. So if you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it. It’s not universally recommended. But if you really want to be complete, you should probably use it, if you can.” When asked about this interview recently and whether he was recommending that everyone should wear an eye shield, he clarified that he never meant it was recommended for every single person.
Between what Dr. Fauci and Mr. Steinemann (spokesperson for the AAO) have covered publicly, we can reasonably assess the following conclusion:
If you are typically in high risk locations, which means you are likely to come in contact with the virus often, for example as a healthcare worker or home caregiver to an infected patient, you should protect your eyes by wearing a form of eye covering. However, if you are an average person taking good precautions, not leaving the house much and typically working from home, then wearing a face mask, and practicing social distancing should be enough protection.
Now, if you happen to have eye coverings, and would like to be extra safe, we would not stop you from doing so!