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I'm an Infectious Disease Doctor and You Should Do This—But Aren't

There is one key point of entry you might not be protecting.

You are wearing a mask every time you go out in public, socially distancing, and practicing diligent hand hygiene—all the recommended measures by the CDC in protecting yourself and others from COVID-19. However, according to research and one of the nation's top ophthalmologists specializing in infectious diseases that affect the eyes, you should also think about protecting a key potential entry point of the virus: your eyes. 

Vicente Diaz, MD, a Yale Medicine ophthalmologist who specializes in infectious diseases that affect the eyes and also an assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual science at Yale School of Medicine, explains to Eat This, Not That! Health that there is a distinct possibility you can catch COVID via your eyes. 

"A Sensible Strategy"

"We are getting increasing evidence that eyes can be involved in COVID 19," Dr. Diaz says. He points to research that has found coronavirus in eye secretions—and evidence that healthcare workers wearing full PPE minus eye protection have been reported to get eye involvement followed by systemic involvement.  

"Blocking this form of transmission is a sensible strategy," he maintains. One way to do this is relatively simple. "Wearing glasses over contact lenses provides one physical barrier," he explains. Even if you don't wear glasses or contact lenses for vision impairment, you can pick up a pair of non-prescription lenses, wear sunglasses, or even blue light blocking shades to create a barrier. 

Or, you can opt for added protection via face shields or even goggles, "depending on how much contact you have or how at risk you are." This would be a good option if you are immunocompromised, for example. 

If You Have It, Use It

During an interview with ABC News last week, the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, offered the same advice. "You have mucosa in the nose, mucosa in the mouth, but you also have mucosa in the eye," Fauci, a key member of the White House pandemic response team, stated. "Theoretically, you should protect all the mucosal surfaces. So if you have goggles or an eye shield you should use it."

While he did admit that wearing face shields or goggles isn't "universally recommended," he suggested that could change at some point. "If you really want to be complete, you should probably use it if you can," he added.

Dr. Deborah Birx also recommended face shields during an appearance on Fox & Friends on Thursday. "The mask protects others, to block those droplets and block that contamination that happens when you speak or sing or talk, or even breathe," she said. "The thing about the face shields — we think that could protect the individuals and that it would decrease the ability for them to touch their eyes and spread the virus as well as those droplets coming towards them. So there are two different technologies for two different reasons."

As for yourself, avoid catching COVID-19: wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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