Eye Coverings — Along with Masks — Protect Against Coronavirus

A new study found that eye protection, like goggles, glasses and face shields, are effective in preventing people from getting COVID-19

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Healthcare worker. Photo: Getty

The list of ways to protect yourself against the new coronavirus, COVID-19, is well-known by now: stay six feet away from other people, wash your hands frequently and wear a mask to protect yourself and others. But eye protection hasn’t gotten the same attention, and a new study has found that eye coverings are an additional step that can prevent people from getting the virus.

Researchers have confirmed that COVID-19 primarily spreads from person to person contact, not through contaminated surfaces. It can easily transmit through respiratory droplets from the nose and mouth of an infected person to another person through their nose or mouth, and in some cases, their eyes.

That’s why eye protection, like goggles, glasses and face shields, can help protect against the virus, researchers found in a new study, published in the medical journal Lancet. For the study, researchers analyzed 172 studies about the transmission of viruses, including COVID-19, influenza and SARS, from 16 countries across six continents.

Based on their research, wearing eye protection reduced the transmission of viral infections from 16 percent, which occurred with no eyewear, to 5.5 percent on average.

This kind of eyewear is already common in medical settings, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the researchers said that for the general population, “eye protection is typically under-considered,” and could be “effective in community settings.”

Still, the transmission of COVID-19 through the eye is one of the least common methods, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said, TODAY reported. It could happen if someone has touched a contaminated surface and then rubs their eyes, or, in rarer cases, if respiratory droplets from an infected person lands in someone’s eyes.

TODAY medical correspondent Dr. John Torres said that eye protection can be good, especially "if you're in an area where you can't social [distance]" or "if you're around people ... coughing or sneezing a lot," he said.

The best methods of protection, though, are still social distancing and washing hands, but for medical professionals working closely with COVID-19 patients, eye protection is a significant help.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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