COVID-19 Prevention: How the coronavirus can be contracted through eyes and what you can do to protect yourself

COVID-19 Prevention: How the coronavirus can be contracted through the eyes and what you can do to protect yours Face masks?

Myupchar June 11, 2020 14:47:09 IST
COVID-19 Prevention: How the coronavirus can be contracted through eyes and what you can do to protect yourself

Face masks? Check. Gloves? Check. Sanitizer? Check.

Apart from social distancing, protective gear and sanitising have become an equally important partto prevent the spread of COVID-19. Now, while face masks can reportedly keep the virus from entering your nose or mouth, they do nothing to protect your eyes.

COVID19 Prevention How the coronavirus can be contracted through eyes and what you can do to protect yourself

Representational image. Image by Mircea Iancu from Pixabay.

SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19, spreads through droplet transmission and it can enter the human body through any of the mucosal openings - mouth, nose and eyes. Researchers have postulated that the virus uses the conjunctiva - the white part of the eye - as an entry portal to the body. Those with COVD-19 have shown symptoms like conjunctivitis, watery eyes and chemosis - a condition where the eye surface swells up.

Which goes on to suggest that face masks may not be enough protection.

SARS-CoV-2 and eyes

The COVID-19 causing virus enters healthy cells through the ACE-2 receptors. These receptors are a part of a system that controls blood pressure and electrolyte balance in our body and are present at various places including the respiratory tract, intestines and eyes. The novel coronavirus spike protein recognises these receptors and uses them to enter the human body.

So say a COVID-19 patient sneezes near you - the droplets release through the sneeze can enter your body through any of the mucosal openings. Also, if you touch contaminated surfaces and then touch your mouth/face/eyes, the virus may be able to gain entry into your body.

It is not exactly clear how the virus enters the respiratory system through eyes, but experts suggest that it may trickle down the tear ducts that open from the eyes into the nose.

According to a meta-analysis and review study published in The Lancet, about 13 studies so far have claimed that eye protection is an important part of preventing the disease, with an average of 10.6% reduction in infection risk for those who wear protective gear for the eyes.

How to protect your eyes?

There are various ways you can protect your eyes from exposure to the COVID-19 causing virus, the most common one being the face shield. While an essential for medical workers, many other people have also been using face shields instead of face masks. Unlike the face mask, a face shield lets you express and talk freely and it properly covers your entire face from your forehead to below your chin. Also, it helps you avoid touching your face and can be reused after sanitizing.

A 2014 article had suggested that at a distance of six feet, face shields can reduce the risk of viral transmission to about 92 percent

Another way to protect your eyes is through goggles. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA, properly fitting goggles with indirect vents (opening in the goggles that are slanted away from the front of the lens) are the best to prevent infections that spread through respiratory droplets. These goggles come with an anti-fog coating so you can see clearly. To be effective, a goggle should fit perfectly, especially over your brow and corners of your eyes from where the droplets can otherwise enter. These goggles can be easily worn over prescription glasses.

Alternatively, you could wear safety glasses, though they are not nearly as effective as the goggles.

During this time, it is best to wear glasses instead of contact lenses. Though, there is no evidence to say contact lenses can put you at risk of COVID-19, experts at the American Optometric Association say that people who wear contact lenses tend to touch their face more, which indirectly increases their risk of getting the disease.

So, if you are wearing contacts, make sure to follow a proper handwashing and sanitisation regime and be extra careful about touching your eye or face.

For more information, read our article on Can coronavirus get in through the eyes.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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