What should glasses wearers, contact lens and hearing aid users do when instructed not to touch their face?
Date published: 05 April 2020
Glasses with cleaning solution and a cloth
In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, we are all doing what we can to protect ourselves. While we are washing our hands, staying away from public places and avoiding unnecessary travel, for people who wear contact lenses and glasses, it can be confusing to know what to do when we’re being told not to touch our face.
The average person touches their face more than 20 times an hour – most of the time without even realising – so this is a difficult challenge for everyone. But when you factor in glasses and contact lens wearers, who physically wear something on their face or in their eyes, this becomes even trickier.
That is why Sarah Culshaw, store director at Specsavers in Rochdale, has offered advice to help people decide what is best to do and how to cope in these times.
For glasses wearers
Sarah says: "Just like washing your hands, it is good practice to also make sure you are cleaning your glasses regularly – especially if you are taking them on and off throughout the day or putting them down on a surface.
"The best way to do this is by using a solution that contains detergent to help kill surface microbes, making sure nose pads and sides are also cleaned and dried with a clean cloth – which is washed regularly in 60 degree machine wash with clothes and replaced when no longer effective. And, when putting glasses back on, make sure your hands are clean."
Some people may be tempted to use hand sanitiser on their glasses in an attempt to kill germs, however Sarah asks those planning on doing so, to do this with caution.
She says: "An anti-bacterial hand sanitiser will help to rid your glasses of potentially harmful surface particles, but do avoid contact with your glasses’ lenses, as some ingredients may affect the quality of the lens’ surface. It’s also likely to smear or leave streaks on your lenses unless properly rinsed and dried.
"As anti-bacterial hand sanitisers are likely to contain alcohol, it’s important that you avoid contact with the eyes as it may cause irritation. To help avoid this, use a glasses cleaning liquid or a diluted pH neutral hand wash."
For contact lens wearers
Some people may think that at this difficult and uncertain time it may be a good idea to stop wearing contact lenses. However, as long as correct hygiene measures are taken there is no reasons why this needs to be the case.
Sarah says: "Wearing contact lenses is safe despite myths and misinformation that you may have heard or read about. What’s critical though is that you wash your hands carefully and thoroughly with soap and water followed by drying them with unused paper towels. You should do this when you’re putting your lenses in your eyes and also removing them. Extra attention should also be given to the tips of your fingers and thumb, as these are the parts that tend to touch the lens more.
"It is also best to stick to soap and water when washing your hands to handle lenses, rather than using hand sanitiser. However, if soap and water isn’t readily available, it’s advised that you use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol.
"The problem to note with this type of hand sanitiser though, is the alcohol content when it comes to handling your lenses. If you pass alcohol from your hands to your eyes via your lenses, you could end up with discomfort as it could affect your eyes. There is also no need to wear surgical gloves if your hands are properly clean – and wearing them can make handling lenses difficult so it would be best to avoid it."
Sarah notes that there is also no reason to switch to dailies if you are usually a monthly lens wearer, as the same cleaning standards will still need to apply. Just make sure you are continuing to empty your lens case of old solution each morning, rinse it out with fresh solution and let it air-dry upside down on clean tissue – and replace your case each month.
And, if you usually use eye drops to help with lubrication, continue to do so with clean hands, as going without could inadvertently lead to you rubbing your eyes. However it is advised that all people who are ill with Covid-19 symptoms stop wearing contact lenses until 24 hours after their symptoms stop.
General eye health
For those worried about any changes in eye health being linked to Coronavirus, Sarah says: "Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is believed to occur in about 1-3% of people infected with the Coronavirus so you’re much more likely to have common signs and symptoms such as coughing and a fever."
For hearing aid users
It is also important for hearing aid users to follow correct hygiene advise to prevent the spread of germs. Specsavers audiologist, Anum Saleemi, says: "Earwax has not been directly linked to Covid-19, however as a bodily fluid it is always best to follow good hygiene practices when looking after your hearing aids."
She says: "Before handling any parts of your hearing aids, it is important to follow strict hand hygiene procedures. This includes cleaning your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with either soap and water or with an antibacterial hand sanitiser.
"Before putting your hearing aids in your ears and after taking your hearing aids out of your ears ensure you wipe it down with a tissue or a wet wipe."
Anum also advises that hearing aids should be stored in their case when not in use and that the case is wiped down with a wet wipe every time it is used.
She says: "When changing any batteries, domes or tubes, place the hearing aid onto a tissue to ensure it has limited contact with any surfaces. These parts which are directly placed in the ear should also be wiped down whenever they are handled too."
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