Leading Harley Street oculoplastic surgeon
Dr Sabrina Shah Desai advises on how people
who wear contacts or glasses can protect themselves and the different ways to reduce
the spread when putting in contacts and
Dr Desai says that guarding your eyes — as well as your hands and mouth — can slow the spread of coronavirus. She explains why the eyes are so important in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, and how to make changes to protect yourself.
Dr Desai says we ALL ought to wear safety goggles as wearing a mask alone will “do nothing to slow the spread of the infection”.
‘Limiting eye exposure can help’ explains Dr Shah Desai. ‘When a sick person coughs or talks, particles of the virus can escape from their mouth or nose into another person’s face. And while we mostly focus on the fact that we can inhale these droplets through your mouth or nose, it’s really important to remember that they can also enter through the mucous membrane of 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.’
3 ways to help yourself and others
It’s really important to remember that although there is a lot of concern about coronavirus, common sense precautions can significantly reduce your risk of getting infected.
‘Wash your hands a lot but also don’t forget to place a really strong importance on the eyes. Follow good contact lens hygiene and avoid touching or rubbing your nose, mouth and especially your eyes,’ says Dr Shah Desai.
1. If you wear contact lenses, switch to glasses for a while.
Contact lens wearers touch their eyes so much 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. Substituting glasses for lenses can decrease irritation and force you to pause before touching your eye.’
2. Wearing glasses (or goggles) 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. ‘DIY glasses or safety goggles can offer a much better form of protection so, if possible, wear these additionally over the top of your normal glasses to prevent infection.’
3. Avoid rubbing your eyes.
We all do it. 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,’ advises Dr Desai. ‘Dry eyes can lead to more rubbing, so consider adding moisturising eye-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.’