Can I Get Coronavirus In My Eyes?

In our series "What's the Risk?" experts weigh in on what risks different scenarios pose for transmitting COVID-19.

Can I Get Coronavirus In My Eyes?

When it comes to getting sick with COVID-19, you might be thinking about this, and we have too. Margaret Parker emailed us asking: 

“Can a person who coughs or sneezes near me cause COVID-19 particles to enter my body through my eyes and get into my system?”

We asked the experts: Dr. Frank Esper, a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist, The Cleveland Clinic; Katie Cary, vice president of infection prevention for HCA Continental Division; and Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Pediatric Infectious Diseases Physician, the Mayo Clinic.

We asked the experts. Their take: Contracting COVID-19 if someone coughs near your eyes is high risk. 

"If anybody is coughing or sneezing with a cold near you, the risk is high," Esper said.

"So the risk of infection from COVID does come with the respiratory secretions getting in mucous membranes, which does include eyes," Cary said.

"It's not what everybody thinks.  They think it's not going through your eyeball. But there's these little channels from the corner of your eye into your nose. The virus, when you rub your eye, it gets into these channels and they can go into the nose, and it's the nose where this virus loves to breathe. It loves to infect," Esper said. 

"This is another reason why it's important for everyone to remember that wearing a mask is not a substitute for physical distancing. A mask will protect your nose and your mouth, but not your eyes. And so that's why the mask should be used in addition to physical distancing to reduce your risk of infection," Rajapakse said.

If you have a question about your risk, send us a video to whatstherisk@newsy.com. You can see answers to other questions here