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Covid eye protection isn’t required but doesn’t hurt

Topic: Covid eye protection isn’t required but doesn’t hurt

You don’t need to sport eyewear routinely during Covid-19, experts say. If you want to grab eye protection anyway, here’s what they recommend.

Beyond wearing masks, washing our hands, practicing physical distancing and getting vaccinated, there’s an additional layer of protection against the coronavirus that we might want to consider: eye protection. While 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 to school, work and the grocery store?

“I don’t think we need to routinely wear glasses, goggles or face shields like we need to wear masks,” said Rapoport. “But then again, it doesn’t hurt to wear protective eyewear, either.”

Thomas Steinemann, MD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and professor of ophthalmology at MetroHealth Medical Center, said there have been a few studies about wearing eye protection as a Covid-19 mitigation measure. One of the most prominent ones is a study published in the medical journal JAMA Ophthalmology in September 2020. It examined whether or not there’s an association between people wearing eyeglasses daily and their susceptibility to the coronavirus. The study, which examined 276 individuals hospitalized with Covid-19 in Suizhou, China, found that the proportion of daily eyeglass wearers — those who wore eyeglasses for more than eight hours a day — was just 5.8 percent, while the number of local individuals who wore eyeglasses daily was 31.5 percent. Steinemann said the study suggests that daily wearers of eyeglasses may be less susceptible to Covid-19. But he thinks more studies need to be done around the topic in order to make public health recommendations.

“I think the study is fascinating and it’s compelling for more studies, but it’s just one small observational study,” Steinemann said. “I don’t want people to lose sleep over it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently only recommends eye protection for healthcare professionals in “areas with moderate to substantial community transmission” As for the rest of us, Rapoport and Steinemann said recommendations for wearing eye protection are situational. We talked to medical experts about when we may want to wear eye protection during the pandemic, and the types of eye protection we may want to consider.

Topic Discussed: Covid eye protection isn’t required but doesn’t hurt

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