If you wear this item regularly, you could be at higher risk for COVID-19

Without a clinically approved vaccine for COVID-19, preemptive measures are epicentral to reducing the disease’s growth curve.

The US initiated contact tracing relatively late, and as a result risk assessments are only now gaining traction. 

We now know that the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is most reliably transmitted via the mouth, nose, and eyes.

There is a yet to be determined viral count required to make a person sick from the virus (referred to as the infectious dose) and the amount of coronavirus that surpasses this threshold determines the severity of symptoms. 

Of the three transmission routes listed above, oracular vectors pose the least risk by far. For one thing, SARS-CoV-2 isn’t able to remain active on the surface of an eye for very long. Moreover, because the process of inserting and removing the lens is so delicate, wearers are rarely tempted to fuss with them once they’re in. 

As of the time of this writing, there have been no recorded transmissions that occurred from coronavirus fomites residing on contact lenses. Still, physicians recommend using daily disposable lenses to further reduce the risk.

The only viable risk associated with contact lens handling has more to do with failure to thoroughly wash hands before insertion.

In a new report, Langis Michaud of The University of Montreal School of Optometry provided an eight-point checklist to consider when handling contact lenses.  

  • 1. Thoroughly clean hands before and after handling contact lenses.
  • 2. Dry hands thoroughly with a clean, disposable cloth.
  • 3. Do not use tap water to rinse, clean, or soak the lens, even temporarily.
  • 4. If you can, use disposable soft lenses every day (single use), so that no solutions or cases are needed.
  • 5. If reusable lenses are worn, use only the lens care products recommended by your eye-care professional.
  • 6. Replace the lens case after no more than two months. Clean it daily with a contact lens solution. Do not use water, boil it, or put it in the dishwasher.
  • 7. Avoid sleeping with contact lenses.
  • 8. Consult an optometrist or ophthalmologist promptly if any unusual symptoms occur.

“Lens care should be performed with products recommended by eye-care professionals and specifically formulated for this purpose. Ideally, a peroxide solution should be used for disinfection and overnight soaking,” Michaud explained in the new report. “A saline solution formulated for contact lenses should be used to rinse lenses in the morning prior to insertion.”

If you can swing it, it’s advisable to swap out your prescription glasses for a contact lens pair to avoid oracular transmission. 

Michaud went on in the paper to warn about how often glasses slip from our faces, how often we take our glasses off, and how often we fidget with them throughout the day. All of these put us at a considerably higher risk of infection.

“This risk is all the more present since the virus can live for several days on plastic as well as on frames. Contamination by droplets that the person is exposed to and the adhesion of the virus on this surface is more likely than in the case of contact lenses,” Dr. Michaud. “Finally, the eyewear does not act as a shield against the virus: the nose and mouth remain the doorways for entry. In short, regular corrective glasses should not be considered a personal protective device against Covid-19.”