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Infectious Diseases

Updated 19 June 2020

Leave your sunglasses at home if you're venturing out during the pandemic

Your sunglasses could be an easy way for the coronavirus to hitch a ride home.

  • The way most people wear sunglasses in stores means they could become a more likely carrier for the coronavirus
  • There are also studies showing that the coronavirus can spread through the eyes – besides the mouth and nose
  • Contact lens wearers are also at higher risk

Next time you venture into the outside world, think twice about wearing your sunglasses.

Dangling in your shirt, or nestling on your head when inside a store, you know you’re going to be tempted to fidget with them – all the while touching items, baskets and trolleys.

Gail Trauco, a registered oncology nurse and patient advocate, told Eat This, Not That that sunglasses also increase the chances of unconsciously touching your face. 

This is different from prescribed glasses, as they stay on your face and you are far less likely to touch them. 

READ: How contact lenses could impact your Covid-19 risk

Spread through eyes

Besides the nose and mouth, researchers have found that the coronavirus can also potentially spread through the eyes, although studies are still limited. 

One study from Italy’s National Institute for Infectious Diseases published in Annals of Internal Medicine found traces of the virus in a Covid-19 patient’s eyes –  27 days after the first symptoms appeared and no longer showed up in the nose. 

Another study – published in bioRxiv and still to be peer-reviewed – looked at whether eyes have the right receptors for the coronavirus to enter the body, and concluded that not only can you catch it through the eyes but it can also serve as a reservoir, spreading the virus. 

This means that just rubbing your eyes and touching a surface could spread coronavirus. 

Contact lens wearers could be at higher risk and need to be extra prudent about washing their hands before putting in and taking out their lenses. Contacts can also cause irritation, making the wearer more prone to rubbing and touching their face. 

ALSO READ: Is it allergies or Covid-19? An expert helps you tell the difference

What you should do

The American Academy of Opthalmology advises contact lens wearers to switch to glasses for a while, as this can also protect the eyes from exposure. 

But it’s important to note that they aren’t foolproof as the virus can still enter from the exposed sides. Safety goggles will give you full protection, but experts only advise this for healthcare professionals who have a high risk of exposure. 

They also advise moisturising your eyes more to prevent rubbing. 

And when it comes to sunglasses, rather leave them at home or in your car, and disinfect your hands before you touch them again.

Covid-19 shopping safety

Image credit: Getty Images