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Could wearing glasses help protect you from the coronavirus? That’s a conclusion some are drawing from a new report coming out of China, where doctors at a local hospital found that out of 276 Covid patients admitted over a 47-day period, all but 16 of them were not wearing glasses. “These findings,” the researchers wrote, “suggest that daily wearers of eyeglasses may be less likely to be infected with Covid-19.”
The report, first detailed in a New York Times article over the weekend, is the latest finding to support the wearing of glasses as a protective measure against the spreading of the coronavirus. The report hypothesized that “eyeglasses prevent or discourage wearers from touching their eyes, thus avoiding transferring the virus from the hands to the eyes.” Without the physical barrier of glasses, the researchers say studies have shown people will involuntarily touch their eyes more than 10 times per hour.
As doctors and scientists continue to monitor how the coronavirus can spread, the CDC has issued warnings that people could get Covid-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it — say, a table or door handle — and then touching their mouths, noses, or eyes.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology goes one step further. “When a sick person coughs or talks, virus particles can spray from their mouth or nose into another person’s face,” they outline on their website. “You’re most likely to inhale these droplets through your mouth or nose, but they can also enter through your eyes.”
To prevent possible exposure, it’s best to keep your hands off your face, and definitely stop rubbing your eyes. The best way to do that: start wearing glasses, which form the physical barrier you need to protect your face — and your eyes — from germs in the air.
Whether you have a pair of specs in your drawer or need some new frames, here’s what you need to know to keep your vision clear, your face clean, and your (four) eyes healthy.
1. Start Wearing Your Glasses
Julia Gogosha is the namesake owner of LA’s Gogosha Optique, and she says sales of glasses have gone up since the coronavirus outbreak. “Even with the most vigorous cleansing practices, I’m avoiding touching my face at all costs, and the last thing I want to do is put a finger in my eye,” she says, comparing a pair of glasses to that “Mister Rogers comfy home outfit” people keep in their closets. “Now that home is 90% of our existence, we live in our most comfortable and useful items, and that includes a pair of frames.”
And while contact lens wearers may consider contacts more comfortable than glasses, a good pair of frames forms a barrier in front of your eyes that contacts can’t provide. These frames help to block out dust, allergens and yes, harmful bacteria as well. “Contact lens wearers touch their eyes and face more often to adjust their lenses,” Gogosha says. “Glasses provide an extra protective barrier from the elements to your eye.”
If you’re looking for a new pair of frames, it’s always best to consult professional opticians. Gogosha, who had to temporarily close her store due to the quarantine, is currently offering online consultations and fittings through her highly-curated web store. Buying frames from small merchants could be safer, she suggests, as “independent eyewear is touched by fewer, more skilled hands who put a premium on safety and experience.”
Need glasses right away? You could also consider a trusted e-tailer like GlassesUSA.com, who is currently offering free delivery on a wide selection of frames. The online retailer has frames starting at $19 and you can customize your color, prescription and lens type.
2. Pick Up a Pair of Blue Light Glasses
Glasses aren’t just for people with a prescription. “Glasses shield us from harsh winds, protect you from dry eyes, and most importantly, protect you from harmful light exposure,” says Ahlem Manai-Platt, the eponymous founder and creative director of Ahlem Eyewear (the LA-based brand is currently donating 25% of every eyewear purchase to No Kid Hungry, to help those affected by the quarantine).
Manai-Platt suggests picking up a pair of glasses that help filter out blue light — the kind of light emitted from our phone screens, laptops and other devices. Too much exposure to blue light could damage your eyes with prolonged exposure. A pair of blue light glasses will do double duty, preventing your hands from touching your face while also helping to prevent eye fatigue. “While we are all confined to our homes, our eyes are exposed to screens and bright LEDs more than usual,” Manai-Platt says. “Without the proper ‘shielding,’ harmful light exposure could lead to heavy eyes, headaches, and even difficulty sleeping.”
You can find blue light filter lenses from Ahlem here. We also like these blue light glasses from Felix Gray, which help to effectively filter blue light and eliminate glare. Wearing these glasses when you’re in front of a screen can help reduce eye strain, dry eyes, headaches and blurry vision. Felix Gray offers their blue light glasses in both prescription and non-prescription frames, and you can customize them online and get them delivered to your door. A bonus: the company says their proprietary blue light filter in their sunglasses actually “enhances colors,” by better distinguishing between reds, greens, and blues.
3. Keep Your Glasses Clean With Cloths and Wipes
Even if you’re already wearing glasses, it’s important to keep them clean. “Get in the habit of cleaning them daily,” says Gogosha. Her suggestion: “Pair it to a habit you already have. While you brush your teeth, run your glasses under the sink with soapy water, dry them gently with a tissue, and polish them with a clean cleaning cloth.”
One thing you shouldn’t do: “Never clean your glasses dry,” Gogosha says. “Breathing on them doesn’t count as wet.”
These pre-moistened wipes below come individually-packaged, and won’t damage or scratch your lenses. A bonus: they can also be used to wipe down your phone screen and monitors too. This formula contains 70% isopropyl alcohol, meeting the CDC-recommended guidelines for at least 70% alcohol content in an effective disinfectant.
4. Disinfect Your Glasses
“As much as we wash our faces, we should also consider the cleanliness of our eyewear, as they go on our faces,” says Manai-Platt. “We set our frames in different places (tables, desks, counters) then we place them on our faces — we should practically treat them as washing our hands. By disinfecting your frames, you clean off the dead skin cells, the oxidation and any harmful micro-organisms that shouldn’t be there.”
Here’s how Manai-Platt recommends disinfecting your frames, whether you have an acetate (plastic) pair or a metal frame.
5. Wipe Your Eyes With a Cleansing Cloth — Not Your Fingers
If you really need to rub your eyes, consider using a gentle cleansing wipe, like this one from Burt’s Bees. Formulated with skin-conditioning ingredients like cucumber and sage, these disposable wipes will refresh your eyes, while helping to remove dust, dirt, oil and gunk. They’re gentle enough to be used around your sensitive eye area, and you don’t need to rinse. These wipes are great to clean and refresh your hands as well.
The wipes come in a convenient, re-sealable package, which keeps them moist, hygienic and away from exposed air.
“Your eyes are the most precious asset you have, and it’s extremely important to protect them,” Manai-Platt says. “Glasses are cool, they’re a statement piece, and your very own signature. Right now though,” she adds, “glasses are also important for keeping you safe.”