Experts tell us to ensure we don’t accidentally infect our eyes, noses and mouths with coronavirus. The virus infects our respiratory system and so it is pretty obvious that we should be careful not to touch our noses and mouths – but how are the eyes connected?
Coronavirus can enter your eyes either through a form of aerosol transmission. This can happen when particles are propelled by somebody with the virus coughing or sneezing. Alternatively, if you have the virus on your hands from touching a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes, you can infect yourself.
How are your eyes connected to your respiratory system?
Our eyes are lined by mucous membranes, which a covered with a thick protective fluid. The main function of this membrane is to stop dirt and germs from entering your body through the eyes. It also serves to help keep your eyes moist and hydrated. The tear duct (nasolacrimal duct) in the corner of the eye drains the lacrimal fluid into the nasal cavity. This is why your nose runs and breathing can become difficult when weeping: the lacrimal fluid not only overflows into tears, it also floods the nasal cavity.
Consequently, the mucous membrane and the tear ducts are other points of access for the coronavirus to enter your respiratory system.
It is thought that the virus can also be spread by someone who is infected, through tears. Therefore, it is really important that if someone with Covid19, is crying, that they dispose of their dirty tissues extremely carefully and that any surfaces affected are thoroughly cleaned.
Conjunctivitis and Covid-19
Between 1 and 3% of patents have been shown to experience eye infections when suffering from Covid19. The majority of these have been conjunctivitis (pink eye). This infection should resolve itself within a couple of weeks, however sometimes it requires eye drops or ointment.
Conjunctivitis is common, particularly for contact lens wearers. However, if you do experience conjunctivitis, ensure you are not exhibiting any other Covid19 symptoms as it is possible it is an early indicator of coronavirus infection.
How to reduce your risk of contracting conjunctivitis
The following advice from the American Academy of Opthalmology :
If you wear contact lenses, switch to glasses for a while.
Contact lens wearers touch their eyes more than non-contact lens. “Consider wearing glasses more often, especially if you tend to touch your eyes a lot when your contacts are in. Substituting glasses for lenses can decrease irritation and force you to pause before touching your eye,”
Wearing glasses may add a layer of protection.
Corrective lenses or sunglasses can shield your eyes from infected respiratory droplets. However, the virus can still infect your eyes from the exposed sides, tops and bottoms of the glasses. If you’re caring for a sick patient, wear safety goggles or visors.
If you know you are prone to conjunctivitis and eye infections, ensure you have medication available to you, before lock-down.
Although pharmacies will remain open during the lock-down period, it is far easier to have this medication available to you in advance.
Avoid rubbing your eyes.
Try really hard to break this natural habit, if you can, it will lower your risk of infection. If you do feel the urge to rub your eyes, wash your hands and use a clean tissue. Dry eyes can feel itchy, so if this is a problem, buy some eye drops, or use a cooled solution of boiled water with some salt dissolved in it as a saline eye bath. If you do touch your eyes, always wash your hands thoroughly before and after.
Practice safe hygiene and social distancing.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
You should especially wash your hands before eating, after using the loo, sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. Also wash your hands before eating.
If you can’t get to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
Avoid touching your face — particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth.
If you cough or sneeze, cover your face with your elbow or a tissue. If you use a tissue, throw it away promptly. Then wash your hands thoroughly with soap.
Avoid close contact with sick people.
Stay home if you are sick.
Regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items in your house, such as doorknobs, loo flush, light switches and counter tops and not forgetting your phone!
First Aid for Life and Onlinefirstaid.com cover eye injuries on most of our first aid courses.
Award-winning first aid training tailored to your needs – Please visit our site and learn more about our practical and online courses. It is vital to keep your skills current and refreshed.
It is strongly advised that you attend a fully regulated Practical or Online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit https://firstaidforlife.org.uk or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.
First Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning, fully regulated first aid training provider. Our trainers are highly experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals who will tailor the training to your needs. Courses for groups or individuals at our venue or yours.
First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.