You’ve got your face mask. Now what about eye protection?

It wasn’t that long ago face masks were reserved for hospitals or Halloween. Now, from grocery stores to public parks, they’re main stream and they might be here to stay — at least for a little while.

Why the mask, you ask?

According to EyeMed medical director Joe Wende, OD, “Experts believe the coronavirus is primarily transmitted in respiratory droplets created by a sneeze or cough of an infected person. Those droplets may linger in the air and subsequently be inhaled into the nose or mouth of an uninfected person, thus spreading the disease.”

So, the masks, along with social distancing, are a good faith effort to help stop the spread when droplets are expelled or inhaled from the mouth. But what about the eyes?

Glasses may offer some protection

“While the virus has been detected in the tears of some infected persons, scientists aren’t entirely sure whether airborne droplets entering the eye are a likely means of transmission,” says Dr. Wende.

Does that mean you should cover your eyes as well as your face? Although glasses may potentially provide some protection from the coronavirus, the protection is limited to the shielded area of the eye. The virus can still reach your eyes from the exposed sides, tops and bottom of your glasses.

Dr. Wende recommends choosing styles that fit closely to the face and protect the exposed sides of the glasses, like wrap-style sunglasses or safety glasses.

No matter the eyewear, you’ll definitely want to take the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Do whatever you can to avoid touching your eyes.

They don’t clean themselves

According to Dr. Wende, “In addition to spreading through the air from person-to-person, the coronavirus may also spread by touching a contaminated hard surface (like eyeglasses), and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands.”

This makes cleaning your glasses thoroughly and often a must. Using a microfiber cloth and lens cleaner tends to be the fastest method (make sure your preferred cleaner is OK to use with anti-reflective coatings), but you can use soap and water, too.

Here are 5 time-tested tips to make sure you’re getting rid of germs without damaging the lenses.1

  1. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly, paying attention to cleaning the underside of your fingernails.
  2. Rinse your glasses under lukewarm water (not hot water as that can damage certain lens coatings).
  3. Add a drop of dish soap.
  4. Gently cleanse the glasses, focusing on both lenses, the nose bridge and/or pads, hinges (where oils and grime can hide), and earpieces. Whether washing your hands or your glasses, contact time with the soap is key. The 20 second rule should apply here, too.
  5. Dry with a clean cotton cloth or cool air.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the run-down on proper eye health and hygiene to stay well.  EyeMed members can also learn more about COVID-19 eye health, here.

1.“The right way to clean glasses,” Essilor News, https://www.essilorusa.com/newsroom/the-right-way-to-clean-glasses, accessed April 2020.