By now, everyone knows that wearing a face mask is one of the best ways to stop the spread of coronavirus. And even though some studies have shown that face coverings can also reduce the COVID risk of the person wearing them, it now appears that another accessory can also protect you. According to a recent study, people who wear glasses are five times safer less likely to contract COVID.
To reach this conclusion, a team of researchers in China studied 276 coronavirus patients in the province of Hubei. They found that of the group, 6 percent wore glasses for at least eight hours a day to combat nearsightedness, Live Science reports. By comparison, the estimated rate of nearsightedness in Hubei on a whole is 31.5 percent. As a result of that ratio, the study indicates that eyewear makes people five times less likely to contract COVID, The Daily Mail reported.
The eyes are one of three mucosal surfaces where COVID can enter your body. The other two—your nose and mouth—are covered by a face mask, but the eyes of non-glasses-wearers are often exposed.
The study, which was published in JAMA Ophthalmology, concludes that glasses provide a physical barrier that can "prevent or discourage wearers from touching their eyes, thus avoiding transferring the virus from the hands to the eyes."
"Wearing eyeglasses may become a protective factor, reducing the risk of virus transfer to the eyes and leading to long-term daily wearers of eyeglasses being rarely infected with COVID- 19," the authors wrote.
Amid the pandemic, the American Academy of Ophthalmology suggested that contact lens wearers take a break from their routine and revisit using their frames. "Consider wearing glasses more often, especially if you tend to touch your eyes a lot when your contacts are in," Sonal Tuli, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said in a statement. "Substituting glasses for lenses can decrease irritation and force you to pause before touching your eye."
In late July, Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also urged Americans to shield their eyes. "Theoretically, you should protect all the mucosal surfaces," he told ABC News. "So if you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it."
Recent studies have shown that specific enzymes that are produced in the eye make them especially susceptible to COVID. Doctors believe this might also explain why 12 percent of COVID patients report redness and swelling in their eyes as a symptom.
Still, scientists warn that more research is needed and that the best defense of all is to practice regular hand washing, continue wearing a face mask, and of course, don't touch your eyes. And for more on the COVID symptoms most patients experience, check out These Are the 51 Most Common COVID Symptoms You Could Have.