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Contact Lens Wear and the Coronavirus – Is it Safe?

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by Dr. Jeremy Fowler

There have been many reports in the news lately that suggest an increasing number of people are becoming infected with the coronavirus due to wearing contact lenses.  However, there is currently no scientific evidence showing that this is actually the case. In reality, the potential for contact lens related infections has always existed, but proper hygiene, wear, and care can keep you safe.

When a person is sick with a virus, they spread that virus by sneezing and coughing virus particles in microscopic droplets from their nose and mouth.  These droplets land on nearby surfaces or are inhaled through the nose and mouth of individuals nearby. The virus can also be transferred when someone touches an infected surface, then touches their nose, mouth, or in some cases their eyes, without first washing their hands.  Once someone is infected, it typically takes 2-10 days before they start to show signs of the infection, such as fever, coughing, sneezing, and fatigue.

Anyone who thinks they may have a viral infection should stop wearing contact lenses immediately and should not resume contact lens wear again until they are symptom-free for several days.

On the other hand, healthy individuals who want to wear contact lenses can continue to do so, without fear of infection, by following these few simple steps:

  1. WASH YOUR HANDS – before you even think about touching your contact lenses, or the case they are stored in, you should wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, then dry your hands with a clean cloth or unused paper towel.  Whenever possible, repeat this step frequently throughout the day.
  2. AVOID TOUCHING YOUR FACE – once your contacts are in your eyes, try not to touch any part of your face – especially your nose, mouth, or eyes – to limit the possibility of infection.
  3. KEEP AWAY FROM THE WATER – water can carry and sustain many different types of microscopic germs.  You should never shower or swim in contact lenses, and do not rinse them with or store them in water (or saliva) either.
  4. AVOID SLEEPING IN CONTACTS – studies show that sleeping in contact lenses increases your chance of getting an infection up to 10 times the normal rate.  And, contact lens related infections tend to be more severe and take longer to heal than non-contact lens related infections.
  5. DISINFECT PROPERLY – after removing your lenses, you should use fresh multipurpose or hydrogen peroxide solution to clean and store your lenses overnight.  Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and guidance from your optometrist for best results.

Safe contact lens wear is in the power of your hands.  Don’t let anyone tell you different!