SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The day after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the nation, recommended people wear goggles or a face shield if available, ABC10 spoke to a medical expert about why wearing eye protection could keep us safe from the coronavirus.
ABC10 health expert Dr. Payal Kohli explains why face shields could offer an extra layer of protection from the disease, and how they could be better for children.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
ABC10: How much of a difference would eye protection offer compared to a face mask or a face shield?
We know that the primary route of entry for this virus is through the nose and the mouth. The virus could also get into your lungs through the eyes. That's because the eyes are connected to the nose and mouth through a system called the nasal lacrimal system.
There are a lot of reasons why eye protection was not focused on earlier in the pandemic. The first is that we're still learning about the relationship of the virus and how it can enter through the eyes.
The other reason is that we are just starting to learn about how eye protection can be implemented. If we give people too many things to do, we tell them to wear a mask and wear eye protection, they're much less likely to do all of those things together.
ABC10: What kind of protection should we be wearing on a daily basis?
The main thing with the way the virus enters the eyes is that there are two ways it does. The first is that you touch a surface that's contaminated and you rub your eyes, and you've inoculated the virus into your eyes.
The second and much more uncommon way that people have described is through tiny aerosols or droplets of virus particles that may be laboring in the air that then contact your content hybrid directly, and then get inoculated.
If people do wear eye protection, such as sunglasses or eyeglasses, they have to be exceedingly careful that they don't increase the touching around the eyes. That could potentially increase the risk of the virus getting inoculated, just like we say, with the mask.
On the eyes, all around could work, the highest level of protection would be offered from a face shield. The face shield protects you from touching your eyes or not getting anything into your eyes.
ABC10: What kind of protection would you recommend for children?
Face shields are a great option for younger children for many reasons. Number one, it makes them less likely to touch their face because their eyes, nose, and mouth are covered, as compared to a mask where they're more likely to adjust it.
Number two, because they're clear, they can see other people's faces and people can see their faces. Face shields allow their social development to be unimpeded.
Number three, they are more comfortable to wear for the younger children rather than the mask.