According to a new study, people who wear glasses are up to three times less likely to contract COVID-19. That could be because glasses-wearers rub their eyes less, say the researchers behind the report, which was published earlier this month on the pre-print site medRxiv. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
People who wear glasses at least eight hours a day were less likely to catch COVID
In the study, researchers at a hospital in India surveyed 304 people hospitalized for COVID-19 about their glasses-wearing habits, then compared that to the number of people who wear glasses in the general population. They concluded that people who wore glasses “for a long period of time” (meaning at least eight hours a day) were two to three times less likely to catch coronavirus.
“Touching and rubbing of the eyes with contaminated hands may be a significant route of infection” for coronavirus, the authors wrote, noting that people touch their faces 23 times an hour on average, and their eyes three times an hour.
They also noted that mask-wearing campaigns don’t do anything for the eyes. “The conjunctival mucosa may be the initial site of infection because it is directly exposed to external pathogens,” they said.
Another study agrees that glasses can be protective
A study published last year in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology also concluded that glasses-wearers may be less likely to contract coronavirus. That study found that only 6% of COVID-19 patients in a Chinese hospital wore glasses.
The authors of the new study noted that it has limitations: The sample size was small, and conducted in a short time (two weeks during this summer). Observational studies are inherently limited, as their conclusions may not extend to the larger population.
So should you start wearing eye protection to avoid COVID? Experts aren’t recommending it yet.
“It’s a provocative and fascinating study. But in the scheme of things, this is a small portion of the population. We’d require a much larger study before making any conclusions about whether wearing glasses really does mean people are touching their eyes less often, and therefore decreasing infection rates,” said Dr. Thomas Steinemann, an ophthalmologist and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
The CDC doesn’t yet advise that Americans wear glasses or face shields to protect against COVID-19; their website continues to recommend mask-wearing, social distancing, frequent handwashing as the best way to protect yourself against coronavirus.
How to survive this pandemic
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.