Contact lenses or glasses during this coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak? Which is your better option for safety and hygiene? The answer varies among eye doctors.
Here’s why some are saying glasses are the smarter choice: Eyeglasses might serve as a shield from any respiratory droplets from someone sneezing or coughing in your direction. Contact lenses, and even your naked eye, don’t offer the same protection.
And respiratory droplets are believed to be one way that the new coronavirus spreads from person to person — which also explains the need for social distancing.
A split decision on eyewear safety
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), for example, suggests that contact lens wearers switch to glasses or sunglasses until the coronavirus spread has lessened. Why? Contact lens wearers touch their eyes more than the average person.
Another reason? The AAO says, “Wearing glasses may add a layer of protection. Corrective lenses or sunglasses can shield your eyes from infected respiratory droplets. But they don’t provide 100% security.”
The American Optometric Association (AOA), though, says, “There is no scientific evidence that wearing spectacles or glasses provides protection against COVID-19 or other viral transmissions.”
The AOA also says about contact lens wear during COVID-19: “Doctors of optometry want to reinforce that contact lenses are a safe and effective form of vision correction for millions of people.”
Bottom line? Both eye doctor groups agree that whether you wear glasses or contacts, you need to be extra vigilant about keeping your hands — and your eyewear — free of germs.
How to care for your glasses, contacts and eyes
The AOA and AAO recommend that contact lens and glasses wearers:
Wash your hands properly: Whether wearing contact lenses or glasses, wash your hands carefully and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This should occur before every contact lens insertion and removal or before touching your eyes/face for any other reason.
Disinfect your contact lenses: If you wear daily disposable contact lenses, dispose of them each evening. If you wear extended wear contacts, regularly disinfect your monthly and two-week lenses according to instructions from the manufacturer and your eye doctor.
Use fresh contact lens solution: Rinse your contact lens case with fresh solution, not water. Then leave the empty case open to air dry. Don’t reuse old solution (order more online if you’re sheltering at home).
Discontinue contact lens wear if you’re sick: Consistent with recommendations for other types of illness, those who feel ill with cold or flu-like symptoms should cease contact lens wear.
Bottom line: Whether you wear contacts or glasses, keep them clean.
Glasses don’t offer total coronavirus protection
As the American Academy of Ophthalmology notes, glasses won’t block all respiratory droplets. The new coronavirus still can reach your eyes from the exposed sides, tops and bottoms of your glasses.
And if you are taking care of someone who has COVID-19 or may have been exposed to the virus, park your glasses and pick up a pair of safety goggles — or something stronger — for the best protection.
Bonus: You can wear contact lenses with your safety goggles so you can see clearly and feel you’re protecting your eyes from possible infection.