The Common Cold and Your Eyes

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This time of year brings good a fresh start, but it can often be a time when catching a cold becomes common. Not only do some people have eye symptoms when they suffer from a cold, but you can actually pick up germs through your eyes.

Regardless of where you live, your activities, or how healthy you are, anyone can be affected by a cold or flu. Cold and flu viruses spread more readily when the air is dry and cold. The winter months surrounding the holidays can be busy and filled with people. Many of us spend more time indoors with loved ones. Restaurants, shopping, celebrations and everything in between cause us to come in contact with more people than usual.

It’s this increase in contact that can cause you to catch a cold. When an infected individual coughs or sneezes, mucus and germs are released into the air, or into the hand used to cover their mouth. If this person isn’t cautious, they’ll leave these germs behind on their hands or contaminate an object, like a public doorknob. These germs can be easily passed into your eyes or nose, causing you to catch the cold left behind. Viruses travel easily from the eye to the nose and throat. If you’re especially sick, the sneezing, coughing, and fever that accompany a cold or flu can also negatively affect your eyes. Eyes can be dry and tired, and it’s not uncommon to gain an eye infection while under the weather.

Our eyes are sensitive so it’s important to care for them as best you can, especially during cold and flu season. Most of us touch our face and eyes more often than we realize. We often hear how important it is to wash our hands, but it’s more than true, it’s the best way to avoid a cold or flu. If you happen to have one, it’s also how to prevent getting those around you infected.

To help you beat the common cold this season, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The best practice for washing hands: wet hands with warm water before applying soap, rub hands together covering each palm, between fingers and then the back of your hand, and then dry your hands thoroughly. The World Health Organization provides more detail on this poster.
  • Make washing your hands a routine. When we come home from the hustle and bustle of errands, we often forget to wash our hands but it’s crucial to remember. Wash your hands after visiting any public place, such as the grocery store, post office or mall.
  • If you’re caring for someone ill, or someone very old or young, it’s especially important to wash your hands before and after there is contact.
  • Do your best to not touch your face or rub your eyes without first washing your hands. Challenge yourself during the day to avoid touching as best you can.
  • If you wear contacts lenses, it’s vital you wash your hands before caring for your contacts or touching your eyes

This is guest post by VSP employee, Megan R.

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