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Keep your eyes protected during the COVID-19 pandemic

Your eyes are a vulnerable area and could be an area that lets the virus into your body.

TAMPA, Fla. — While a mask or face covering can help keep us from breathing in or spreading the virus, it doesn't cover our eyes. And, that's a vulnerable area many of us aren't thinking about. 

Our eyes are basically mucous membranes, a direct vehicle for the virus to get into our bodies. There are three ways your eyes can either contract or spread the virus.

  1. Tears: if you wipe watery or teary eyes and then touch a surface, you could potentially contaminate that surface with the virus.
  2. Air: if you walk through an area where the virus is still in the air, it can potentially get into your body through your eyes.
  3. Touch: simply touching a contaminated surface and then touching or rubbing your eyes could give you the virus.

Ophthalmologist Dr. Rani Banik says we shouldn't be wearing contacts right now.

"Make sure you wash your hands! For some patients, I even recommend at least temporarily switching to glasses so that need to touch your eyes is just not there. And, the other added benefit of glasses is that it provides a protective covering so you don't necessarily need to wear safety goggles or a face shield. If you're wearing glasses that will potentially protect that aerosolized air particle from getting to your eyes."

That isn't Dr. Rani's only concern right now. 

She says the increased screen time and exposure to blue light from our computers, phones and TVs can cause eye strain. That can lead to temporary blurred vision, dry eyes, light sensitivity and headaches. It can even disrupt your sleep.

 "I like to use a rule I call the 20/20 rule. Twenty-twenty in ophthalmology means perfect vision but basically what 20/20 stands for is every 20 minutes set your time and take a 20-second break and what I typically recommend is just closing your eyes for 20 seconds, let your eyes get lubricated by tears, prevent that blue light from hitting your eyes."

Also, Dr. Rani says most ophthalmologists are not taking routine appointments right now out of an abundance of caution. However, many are taking teleconferences and they can see you if there is an emergency.  

So, if you have any concerns or questions, you can call your eye doctor to find out what they recommend.

You can watch an extended interview with Dr. Rani here.

RELATED: Contact lens wearers urged to switch to glasses to prevent coronavirus

RELATED: Florida Health, for the first time, releases data on COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities

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