Beyond wearing masks, washing hands, practicing physical distancing, and getting vaccinated, there is an extra layer of protection against the coronavirus that we might want to consider: eye protection. Although rare, Yuna Rapoport, MD, founder and director of Manhattan Eye, said our eyes are an entry point for viral particles and can be a channel through which we become infected with Covid-19. But does that mean we should wear eye protection at school, at work, and at the grocery store?
“I don’t think we regularly need to wear glasses, goggles or face shields like we have to wear masks,” Rapoport said. “But then again, it doesn’t hurt to wear eye protection either.”
Thomas Steinemann, MD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and professor of ophthalmology at MetroHealth Medical Center, said there had been a few studies on wearing eye protection as a Covid-mitigation measure. 19. One of the most important is a study published in the medical journal JAMA Ophthalmology in September 2020. It looked at whether or not there is an association between people who wear glasses on a daily basis and their susceptibility to the coronavirus. The study, which examined 276 people hospitalized for Covid-19 in Suizhou, China, found that the proportion of daily eyeglass wearers – those who wore glasses for more than eight hours a day – was only 5 , 8%, while the number of local people wore glasses daily was 31.5 percent. Steinemann said the study suggests that everyday eyeglass wearers may be less susceptible to Covid-19. But he thinks more studies need to be done on the subject in order to make public health recommendations.
“I think the study is fascinating and compelling for more studies, but it’s just a small observational study,” Steinemann said. “I don’t want people to lose sleep over it.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends eye protection only to healthcare professionals in “areas of moderate to heavy community transmission.” We spoke with medical experts about when we might want to wear eye protection during the pandemic and what types of eye protection we might want to consider.
Types of eye protection
The CDC says it “does not recommend face shields or glasses in place of masks,” but notes that glasses or the like eye protection can be used in addition to a mask. Face shields and glasses are mainly used for protect the eyes of the wearer, says the CDC.
Steinemann said the three types of glasses he recommends are protective eyewear, safety glasses and face shields. Overall, he noted that you should look for glasses that create a seal around the eyes in order to eliminate spaces where particles could enter.
Rapoport said protective glasses are very protective and when she saw Covid-19 patients in hospital at the start of the pandemic, she was wearing a pair. If you look at pictures of people on the front lines, she says they often wear goggles in addition to masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment.
Protective glasses are another more low-key option, especially if you plan to wear them when running errands in crowded public spaces or traveling on public transport. Safety glasses should have barriers on the top and sides, and look for glasses that have a gasket (usually foam or rubber) on the inside of the frames.
Face shields are another option which, as we have already reported, can prevent large particles from entering your eyes and mouth. In addition to its warning against replacing masks with face shields, the CDC notes that “face shields have large spaces under and along the face where respiratory droplets can escape and reach others around you. “.
Best eye protection to wear during the pandemic
1. Hair Villa Safety Glasses
These safety glasses are designed with side and top shields to protect your eyes from airborne particles. They are made from polycarbonate, a lightweight, shatterproof material, and block UV rays. The lenses have an anti-fog coating and anti-reflective lenses for better visibility, and the brand claims that they block blue light (although experts have previously told us that blue light glasses with lenses clear are not very effective). The glasses are available in a variety of colors, including tortoise, black, blue and red, and they can be purchased individually or as a pack of two. Safety glasses are also available for children.
2. Pyramex safety glasses
The inside of the frame of these glasses is lined with foam padding to create a seal around the eyes. The glasses feature curved lenses that roll up to protect the sides of the eyes and create a secure fit. The lenses are made of scratch resistant polycarbonate with an anti-fog coating. They also offer UVA, UVB and UVC protection. The glasses come in five styles: two with clear lenses, two with dark gray lenses, and one designed for indoor and outdoor use.
3. Dewalt safety glasses
Dewalt safety glasses feature a double soft rubber liner around the inner frame that conforms to the face, creating a seal around the eyes. The glasses have an adjustable elastic headband, and the shatterproof and scratch-resistant lenses are made with an anti-fog lens coating. The glasses are available with transparent or smoked lenses.
4. SolidWork Safety Glasses
SolidWork Safety Glasses are constructed with a rubber liner around the inner frames to provide a seal around the eyes. The glasses feature a panoramic lens design to provide full side vision while protecting the eyes from particles. The lenses have a coating that makes them scratch resistant on the outside and anti-fog on the inside, and they also provide UV protection.
5. ArtToFrames protective screen
This one-size-fits-all face shield includes acrylic goggles that can fit most goggles. The anti-fog shield provides 180 degree protection around the face as well as full visibility. Face shields come in a pack of 10, and they can be cleaned and reused.
6. Muryobao safety face shield
This full-length face shield provides coverage over the face and its wrap-around design also provides particle protection. It is designed with a foam band that rests on the forehead and an adjustable elastic headband. Its visor can be cleaned and reused. The face shield comes in a pack of two.
Transmission of Covid-19 through the eyes
Like our mouths and noses, our eyes have a mucous membrane through which viruses can enter the body, according to Steinemann. The mucous membrane in the eyes is connected to those in the nose and mouth, which he says people generally understand if they think about how their noses get stuffy when they cry. Steinemann said it was less common to contract the coronavirus through the eyes because their surface area was smaller than that of the nose and mouth, making it more difficult for airborne viral particles to penetrate.
Rapoport said people infected with the coronavirus can also spread the disease through their tears. If you touch tears that carry the coronavirus (or a surface where the tears landed) and then touch your eyes, you can become infected with Covid-19 by spreading the virus in your body. Additionally, you can contract the coronavirus by touching your eyes after touching a surface that contains virus particles. Although possible, she pointed out that it was rare.
When should we wear eye protection during the pandemic?
Rapoport said you should “absolutely wear eye protection” if you are the caregiver of an actively infected person who lives in your home, or if you suspect that a person may be infected. She said you should take every precaution when in close contact with them, including wearing eye protection.
Also, if you take public transportation and are on a crowded flight, train or bus, Steinemann said to consider wearing eye protection. The same goes for people who gather in crowded public spaces and for those at high risk of serious illness from Covid-19: the more protection, the better.
“I think it’s totally appropriate to be as careful as possible in these situations,” said Steinemann. He also noted that eye protection can act as a reminder not to touch your eyes and face.
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