The One Way Dr. Fauci Says You're Not Protecting Yourself From COVID
In addition to masks, social distancing, and hand-washing, there's a way to stay safe that you're not doing.
As COVID-19 continues to spread like wildfire across a majority of the United States, many Americans are doing their best to regularly wash their hands, wear masks in public, and social distance whenever they leave the house. Those are the most well-known, proven tactics to lower your risk of contracting the coronavirus. But it turns out, there is yet another way you could be protecting yourself from COVID-19, according to Anthony Fauci, MD—and you likely haven't been doing it: covering your eyes with goggles or a face shield. "If you have goggles or a face shield, you should use it," Fauci said in an interview on July 29.
During an Instagram Live chat with ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Jennifer Ashton, MD, Fauci said that eye protection could help prevent you from contracting COVID-19. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explained that you're most likely to contract the virus via your mouth, nose, and eyes, i.e. the three mucosal surfaces. (The mucosa is the moist tissue that lines certain parts of the inside of your body and it is more susceptible to viruses than say, your skin.)
"Theoretically, you really should protect all of the mucosal surfaces," Fauci noted. He said that protecting your eyes from COVID-19 is "not universally recommended, but if you really want to be complete, you should probably use it if you can."
Of the three mucosal surfaces, the nose is the primary entry point for the coronavirus. But research has also shown that the contagion can be contracted through the eyes. A May study out of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was one of the first to reveal that the coronavirus can be transmitted through your eyes, including your tears.
For example, virologist Joseph Fair, PhD, had flown on an airplane while wearing a mask and gloves but no eye protection and managed to contract the virus. "My best guess was that [COVID-19] came through the eye route," he told NBC News, according to WebMD. As a result, Fair started recommending that people wear eye protection to avoid catching the virus.
A recently published meta-analysis published in the journal The Lancet looked at 172 studies from 16 countries and six continents and found that the use of eye protection, such as goggles, visors, and face shields, is associated with "less infection." The study's lead author, Derek Chu, MD, told ABC News, "Goggles, face shields, or even large eye glasses may be important in preventing droplet spread through the eyes, as well as self inoculation via the hands." So when you're trying not to touch your face, remember, it's not just your nose and mouth to avoid—your eyes are vulnerable, too. And for more on how you can contract COVID, check out You're More Likely to Get COVID Through the Air Than This Way, Doctor Says.