Wearing goggles or eye shields in addition to a mask might be a good idea to avoid Covid-19, White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said during an interview on Instagram Live Wednesday.
“Theoretically, you should protect all the mucosal surfaces,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton. That includes your nose, mouth and eyes. “So if you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it.”
Currently, there are no rules around the general public wearing eye protection. But recent studies show that wearing eye protection can decrease the likelihood of infection for healthcare workers. (Face masks or cloth face coverings, on the other hand, are mandated in more than 30 states.)
Here’s what you need to know about protecting your eyes during the pandemic:
Based on what doctors know about how Covid-19 spreads, it’s likely possible to get infected through your eyes, but not common, says Dr. Thomas Steinemann, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
However it makes sense to use eye protection (in addition to a mask) anywhere you can’t effectively maintain social distance from others for an extended period, Steinemann says.
For example, eye protection would be appropriate for a passenger on a plane or for a hair stylist who is face-to-face with several customers a day. The airline Qatar Airways announced in May that cabin crew members must wear safety goggles as part of their mandatory personal protective equipment.
Healthcare workers who are in close contact with patients should also wear eye protection, according to the CDC, especially “in areas with moderate to substantial community transmission.” Steinemann, who treats 20 to 40 patients each day, says he wears always eye protection in addition to his mask.
As Fauci said, if you have eye protection already, you should use it. So, what counts as appropriate eyewear?
Standard eye glasses or sunglasses can provide some protection, but they’re not foolproof, due to the openings on the top, bottom and sides where aerosols could still get in, Steinemann says. That said, contact lens wearers might want to consider wearing glasses to avoid touching your eyes, the American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests.
Face shields work because they protect the crown and chin from exposure, as well as the eyes. The clear plastic wraps around the face to the point of each ear to protect the wearer from splashes and sprays. Although they provide good eye protection, you still have to wear a mask when wearing a face shield in order to cover your nose and mouth.
And in order to be protective, goggles should “fit snugly, particularly from the corners of the eye across the brow,” the Centers for Disease Control says.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is continue to wear a mask, maintain social distance, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer and stop touching your face.