Expert Pitch
West Virginia University

Keep your eye on not touching your eyes, handy tips from an ophthalmologist

28-Apr-2020 8:45 AM EDT, by West Virginia University

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - You’re not imagining things: it really is hard to stop touching your eyes, even though you know that’s important to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“We all touch our faces many times throughout any given day—be it an itchy eye or nose, a bothersome contact lens, a wipe across our mouth or to simply rest our chin in the palm of our hand,” said West Virginia University ophthalmologist Geoffrey Bradford. “Short of wearing handcuffs or a doggie cone, it seems impossible to avoid doing these things.”

Bradford practices at the Eye Institute. He also directs the residency program in the School of Medicine’s Department Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and he is the department’s vice-chair of education.

He has tips for keeping SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—out of our eyes. And none of them involve handcuffs or a doggie cone.

How do I stop touching and rubbing my eyes? What if I slip up and catch myself doing it?
Well, the virus gets from surfaces onto your hands before you put them to your face. So be diligent about washing your hands, and do it often. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you and use it, or place several bottles strategically where you’ll remember to use them throughout the day. Using wipes or spray disinfectant, clean surfaces with which you frequently come into contact, like your desk, keyboard, steering wheel or phone. Keep a box of tissues around. Use one in your hand to scratch an itch when you need to. Or just pull the string in your hoodie really tight so your face stays covered. 

It’s hard enough to stop touching my own eyes. But how do I get my kids to do it?
Trying to be a good parent and getting kids to obey is the toughest job on earth. Keeping kiddie fingers from probing noses, mouths and tired eyes is a task at which even the strongest Marvel superheroes would fail. So simply remember that germs come from the hands, which get them from anything that is touched, which for a child is everything! Wash hard toys regularly with soap and water, or clean them with Lysol wipes and let them dry. Machine-wash soft toys. Keep a child’s play area as clean as feasible. Don’t share toys with others outside the family. Keep children away from people who may be sick, even a best friend or a much-loved grandparent. It’s just for a time, and lots of love and laughter together can make up for it later. 

Is there anything I can do to make my eyes less itchy and irritated to begin with? Do humidifiers help? What about over-the-counter allergy medication?
Humidifiers may help with the dry air in winter, but in more humid, warm weather, they probably won’t add much to relieve dry eyes. Artificial tears come over-the-counter and in many brands. Often drugstores have their own brand. They’re inexpensive and can be used regularly to soothe itchy or dry eyes. OTC allergy drops—or even oral allergy meds—may work, too, for those whose eyes are really irritated by pollen, but often prescription allergy eyedrops are more effective. Start with your pharmacy, but reach out to your physician if you need more help. Finally, a clean, moist, warm washcloth over our eyes at the end of the workday may work wonders to bring relief to weary peepers. 

Why is it so important that I not touch my eyes right now? The novel coronavirus lives in the lungs. What do my eyes have to do with anything?
Just like the hip bone is connected to the leg bone, so are the eyes connected to the nasal passages and throat through the tear duct. Our tear glands make tears, which drain away from the eyes through tiny tear ducts that go into the nose. We typically end up swallowing our tears this way. This is why sometimes eyedrop medicines leave a taste in the back of our mouth. Fortunately, our tears contain infection-fighting immune compounds to often limit the spread of germs, but with the novel coronavirus, our bodies don’t yet have that ability, so germs from the eye can get to the throat and go down our windpipe to the lungs.

For people who wear contact lenses, it is imperative hands are clean to put in and take out the lenses. Lenses cases must also be kept clean. It’s even better nowadays to wear glasses instead of contact lenses to act as a partial barrier to keep our fingers away. For those of us in the healthcare setting, we often wear plastic goggles over our glasses these days as an extra precaution to keep our eyes protected from coughs and sneezes from others. 

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.



Call 1-855-WVU-NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

Filters close

Showing results

110 of 5612
Released: 11-May-2021 3:55 PM EDT
Pregnant Women Hospitalized for Covid-19 Infection Do Not Face Increased Risk of Death
University of Maryland Medical Center

Pregnant women who develop severe COVID-19 infections that require hospitalization for pneumonia and other complications may not be more likely to die from these infections than non-pregnant women. In fact, they may have significantly lower death rates than their non-pregnant counterparts.

Released: 11-May-2021 3:45 PM EDT
This stinks: New research finds sense of smell and pneumonia linked
Michigan State University

An acute loss of smell is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, but for two decades it has been linked to other maladies among them Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Now, a poor sense of smell may signify a higher risk of pneumonia in older adults, says a team of Michigan State University researchers.

Released: 11-May-2021 3:15 PM EDT
How to predict severe influenza in hospitalised patients
University of Melbourne

Published today in Nature Communications, the team from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), Alfred Health and Monash University sought to understand which patients would recover quickly from influenza and which would become severely ill.

Newswise: Five benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine
Released: 11-May-2021 2:50 PM EDT
Five benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine
University of Alabama at Birmingham

UAB experts explain some of the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Newswise: Covid-19 Alters Gray Matter Volume in the Brain, New Study Shows
Released: 11-May-2021 2:05 PM EDT
Covid-19 Alters Gray Matter Volume in the Brain, New Study Shows
Georgia Institute of Technology

Study led by researchers at Georgia State University and Georgia Institute of Technology finds lower gray matter volume in the northern region of the brain is associated with a higher level of disability among Covid-19 patients, even six months after hospital discharge.

Released: 11-May-2021 10:15 AM EDT
How to Win Over Vaccine Skeptics: Live Expert Panel for May 20, 3pm ET

How to Win Over Vaccine Skeptics: Live Expert Panel for May 20, 3pm ET

Newswise:Video Embedded simulating-sneezes-and-coughs-to-show-how-covid-19-spreads
Released: 11-May-2021 10:10 AM EDT
Simulating sneezes and coughs to show how COVID-19 spreads
Sandia National Laboratories

Two groups of researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have published papers on the droplets of liquid sprayed by coughs or sneezes and how far they can travel under different conditions. Both teams used Sandia’s decades of experience with advanced computer simulations studying how liquids and gases move for its nuclear stockpile stewardship mission.

Released: 11-May-2021 9:00 AM EDT
COVID-19 Wastewater Testing Proves Effective in New Study
University of Virginia Health System

Wastewater testing is an effective way to identify new cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes and other congregate living settings, and it may be particularly useful for preventing outbreaks in college dormitories, a new University of Virginia study finds.

Newswise: Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center to Start Post-COVID-19 Rehabilitation Program
Released: 11-May-2021 9:00 AM EDT
Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center to Start Post-COVID-19 Rehabilitation Program
Hackensack Meridian Health

Mountainside Medical Center will begin a new Post-COVID exercise program designed for those who have had COVID-19 to improve strength, flexibility, endurance and activities of daily living. The program goal is to improve quality of life and promote lifestyle changes through education and exercise.

Showing results

110 of 5612