With flu season and the novel coronavirus running rampant, it is now more important than ever to practice proper hygiene. Physicians are advising against touching your eyes, nose, mouth and face to help prevent the spread of these viruses.
For glasses and contact lens wearers, touching your eyes and face are inevitable, but worry not. We can give you a clean understanding of how to take care of your eyes and vision without spreading germs or risking your health.
How do you get rid of bacteria in your eyes?
The best way to keep bacteria out of your eyes is to avoid touching them with unwashed hands or fingers. If you must touch your eyes to apply contact lenses or for any other necessary reasons, it’s vital that you wash your hands thoroughly before doing so.
Another way to avoid bacterial or viral eye infections is by distancing yourself from people who already have an infection or are showing symptoms of one. Social distancing and staying clear of sick friends or family will help prevent the spread of germs that can cause eye infections as well as other illnesses.
Bacterial eye infections like pink eye (conjunctivitis) are the most common to affect your eyes. Depending on the type of conjunctivitis you have — bacterial or allergic — it will clear up with the help of prescription eye drops and ointments or allergy medications. Viral conjunctivitis will resolve on its own most of the time, although severe cases may require antiviral or steroid eye drops to clear up.
It’s always easier to prevent an eye infection than to treat one, which is why effective hand washing is imperative. Keeping your hands and fingers clean is the easiest way to avoid the spread of germs.
How to properly wash your hands before handling glasses or contact lenses
It may seem like a pain to wash your hands every time you do something as routine as putting in your contact lenses. Nevertheless, washing your hands is an absolute must for basic hygiene, regardless of whether you wear contacts or glasses. All the more so if you are routinely required to touch something as sensitive as your eyes.
Although there’s no “wrong” way to wash your hands, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following steps to effectively wash your hands.
- Turn water on low pressure — enough to wet your hands, but not enough to waste.
- Apply soap and lather by rubbing your hands together. Be sure to get the backs of your hands, between your fingers and beneath your fingernails.
- Scrub your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds. Have trouble keeping time? Each of these well-known songs has a 20-second chorus you can sing while washing your hands:
- “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees
- “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo
- “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac
- “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers
- “Happy Birthday” (twice)
- Rinse your hands thoroughly with clean running water.
- Dry your hands with a clean towel and turn the tap off using your elbow or a towel.
How do I clean and disinfect my glasses or contacts?
Having clean hands doesn’t help much against eye infections if your contact lenses or glasses are contaminated. To ensure best hygiene practices are followed, you should also be cleaning your glasses regularly and your reusable contacts daily.
Cleaning your glasses
After you’ve washed your hands, remove your glasses and run them under a low-pressure stream of lukewarm water. This will rinse off any initial dust or debris on the lenses and frames.
Add a pea-sized amount of dish soap to each lens. Make sure the soap is free of any lotions, as lotions can leave streaks. Carefully rub the soap on both sides of the lenses and all over the frames, making sure you reach all of the nooks and crannies of your glasses.
After a minute or so of sudsing your glasses, rinse them under the water. Check to make sure there are no bubbles or soap residue left anywhere. Shake off the excess water from your glasses and then gently dry them off with a clean, lint-free towel.
Cleaning your contact lenses
Once you’ve washed your hands and dried them with a lint-free towel, remove one of your contact lenses. Take the contact in the palm of your hand and rinse it with contact lens solution. Not sure which contact solution is best? Consult with your eye doctor to see what they suggest.
Rub the contact in your palm with the solution to knock off any tear film, debris or allergens that have collected on the lens. After rubbing, rinse the contact with solution again for good measure.
Place your contact lens in a clean contact lens case or holder. Make sure the case has been emptied of any old solution and effectively cleaned with fresh contact solution (a microorganism in tap water can cause eye infections).
Once the contact is in the case, fill it with fresh cleaning solution. You should never “top off” — add clean solution to the old solution — as the old solution has been contaminated and defeats the purpose of adding the new.
When you’ve completed the steps above, repeat them for the contact in the other eye.
Practicing the tips and tricks above will help keep you — and your eyes — as healthy as possible in this time of social distancing, self-isolation and, for some, quarantine.