The past few months have been a whirlwind with information around and the impact of COVID-19. Having the terms “global pandemic” and “self-quarantine” mentioned in casual conversation is something most of us have never experienced before.
At the government’s request, people are spending a lot more time indoors, which inevitably means our eyes will be glued to phones, computers, and TVs. Over time, this fixation can affect our mental and physical health, not to mention the well-being of our eyes.
Practicing some “eye hacks” to relieve stress can keep your eyes more comfortable while you’re cooped up at home. Here are a few of our favorites!
Don’t Overwork Your Eyes
It’s tough out there for eyeballs right now. An increase in screen time plus a decrease in natural light equals extra strain on eyes, no matter your age.
Digital Eye Strain, also referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome, is caused by excess time spent in front of a screen. Although symptoms are only temporary, they can be uncomfortable, inconvenient and even painful.
Taking steps to prevent Digital Eye Strain before it hits could significantly lessen the dry eyes, blurry vision and headaches that are commonly associated with the condition.
The 20-20-20 rule is a tactic that is widely used to avoid Digital Eye Strain symptoms. Its popularity stems from its simplicity:
Every 20 minutes, look up from your screen and focus on an item approximately 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
Focusing on an item in the distance allows the muscles in the eye to relax after being subjected to prolonged screen time.
Kids can experience eye strain too, so establishing the 20-20-20 rule for them during video game play or tablet use can help prepare them for a lifetime of screen use.
In addition to 20-second breaks, taking longer periods of time away from screens is great for resting your mind and your eyes. If you’ve been in front of a screen for a while, step away to read a book or work on a jigsaw puzzle. You’d be amazed at how much of a difference five or 10 minutes can make.
Try Out Different Glasses
Computer glasses, also called blue light glasses, have become a popular method for reducing symptoms of Digital Eye Strain.
The glasses target and block high-energy visible (HEV) light, which is projected by nearly all digital screens. Blue-light-blocking lenses have a slightly yellow tint that counters blue light and curtails the discomfort and potential damage it can cause your eyes.
Not only that, but blocking blue light at nighttime can help regulate or improve your sleep cycles since the brain often interprets screen light as sunlight.
Many phones and computers have a setting that warms the display, further helping you achieve a good night’s rest. Learn more about the benefits of computer glasses.
Consider Your Eyes When Grocery Shopping
For many, the idea of stores being wiped out of common groceries can feel strange, inconvenient, and even scary. Being able to purchase all the items on your grocery list has now become a challenge, as supermarkets across the world are experiencing temporary shortages in everyday items.
But this doesn’t mean a healthy diet should be put on the back burner. What you eat contributes heavily to your eye health and many other aspects of your overall physical health.
So don’t fret when you see carrots are out of stock; there are other eye-friendly grocery items that will get the job done.
Carrots rich in vitamin A are the poster children for eye-healthy foods, and for good reason. But if carrots aren’t available, butternut squash, red bell peppers, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and spinach are also chock-full of this vision-booster.
Zinc allows your body to absorb more vitamin A, making them the perfect pair. Zinc also kicks up your immune system’s efficiency, which comes in handy during a global pandemic. Look for meat, shellfish, beans, and nuts to increase your zinc intake.
It’s easy to turn to comfort food like potatoes and macaroni and cheese during times like these, and that’s OK. Just be sure to also incorporate some of these foods to give your eyes a little TLC:
- Antioxidant-rich foods: Artichokes, blueberries and dark chocolate with high cacao (or cocoa) content.
- Omega-3-rich foods: Focus on food with EPA and DHA, like salmon, mackerel, herring, and tuna. Vegetarians can benefit from flax seeds or flaxseed oil, but these lack the EPA and DHA of fish.
- Vitamin E-rich foods: Spinach, nuts (especially almonds and hazelnuts) and whole-grain cereal.
Our Eyes’ Relation to COVID-19
It’s been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the coronavirus can be transmitted through the eyes. This explains why so many images show health care professionals wearing protective goggles or face shields along with their facemasks.
Although eye transmission is not the most common culprit for spreading the disease (respiratory droplet inhalation and close person-to-person contact are the top methods), the importance of keeping your hands away from your face cannot be understated. This is especially important in regard to your eyes, nose, and mouth.
So if you typically wear glasses, you may unknowingly be arming yourself with an added shield of defense!
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) explains that a pair of glasses may guard your eyes from respiratory droplets. While eyeglasses and sunglasses don’t offer the same level of protection as a pair of goggles, the large surface area of the lens can block the virus from reaching your eyes.
With this in mind, it’s crucial for eyeglasses to be cleaned often. Those who wear glasses will frequently handle their frames, which increases the risk of transferring germs on your hands to the glasses that rest on your face.
The AAO also suggests that those who normally wear contact lenses should switch to glasses for the time being. Contact-wearers typically touch their eyes more often because of the increased irritation of contacts.
There’s evidence that conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, can be a less common sign of COVID-19. Symptoms associated with conjunctivitis are redness, itchiness, discharge, irritation, and crustiness of the eyes. A study of COVID-19 patients in China reported that nine out of 1,099 patients (0.8%) had pink eye as a symptom.
Stay Healthy, Vigilant, And Positive
Understandably, being stuck at home by yourself can feel frustrating. However, social distancing and self-isolation are the best and most effective methods to limit the spread of illness.
Use this time of solitude to check in with yourself, assess your well-being, and practice good habits, especially dealing with your health. Being mindful of your eyes in today’s screen-heavy culture can contribute to vision comfort now and in the future.
Start practicing healthy habits now — it’s possible they’ll stick around even after the days of isolation are over.