On the heels of reports that positive COVID-19 tests among children increased by 21% in the past two weeks, a new study finds that pink eye may be a symptom of the coronavirus in kids. But don’t hit the panic button if your child has red, itchy eyes, say ophthalmologists, physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care.
Children get pink eye frequently. Eye symptoms alone are probably not a sign of the virus. But if your child has been exposed to the virus or if they have other symptoms, such as a fever or cough, consider having them tested.
The study, published in the medical journal JAMA Ophthalmology, suggests that children may experience eye-related symptoms of COVID-19 more often than adults.
Researchers in Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus was first detected last year, examined 216 children between the ages of 2 and 11 years old. All children had tested positive for COVID-19, and while many symptomatic patients had common coronavirus symptoms such as fevers and coughs, 22.7% of the children studied showed “various ocular manifestations.” Previous studies show pink eye or conjunctivitis does occur in adult patients with coronavirus, but at a much lower rate of 1% to 3%.
“Although the numbers do seem to be higher among children, keep in mind that this study did not do a swab of the eye,” says Sonal Tuli, MD, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Some assumptions are being made here — that all the COVID-19 patients who showed signs of ocular symptoms were experiencing pink eye because of coronavirus. Lots of things can cause conjunctivitis, such as colds, different viruses and bacteria. Without a swab, we can’t confirm that the reported eye symptoms were really caused by the coronavirus.”
Some people are experiencing numerous issues while working from home during the COVID pandemic. As ophthalmologists, we know that people who spend a lot of time on the computer, experience computer strain, headaches, and dry eyes. All of these issues can be caused by several causes. Tips below can help you tremendously. improve eye strain. Glasses could also be an easy fix if you over the age of 40 years of age. A good rule of thumb is to start around +1.25 around age 40 and increase to +1.50 around 45 and +2.00 at age 50 and so on. These numbers are merely a rough guide and some people may need a custom prescription from your doctor because of astigmatism and asymmetric prescription between both eyes. If the below tips do not help, then I recommend seeing your ophthalmologist or optometrist for an eye exam.
Apply the 20/20/20 rule
You can avoid digital eyestrain by simply giving your eyes a break at regular intervals, Dr. Coleman says. “In ophthalmology, we have a rule for computer time that every 20 minutes you should look at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Now it can be hard to remember to do that, but even if you give your eyes a break once or twice an hour, it can really help,” she says.
Lubricate your eyes
As we get older, our tear production declines and increases our risk for dry eyes. Blinking less frequently while on the computer exacerbates the problem, says Timothy G. Murray, M.D., president of the American Society of Retina Specialists. “As your cornea becomes less lubricated, things become blurry, your eyes feel gritty, and your eyelids may droop a little bit as they try to protect against the dryness. You can avoid this by using artificial-tear eye drops to lubricate your eyes.”
If you find yourself needing to use drops more than four times a day, the AAO recommends buying preservative-free drops, as many people find the preservatives can irritate their eyes.
Increase the font size
Another underlying cause of computer-related eyestrain is that your eyes are working hard to focus on words or images at a somewhat odd distance: A computer screen is farther away than you’d hold a book and closer than you’d be from your TV. “You can buy computer glasses for the exact distance you need,” Murray says. “So if you sit 21.5 inches from your screen, you can get glasses that are focused exactly at that distance. But I haven’t really found that helpful for my patients.”
The problem with that approach is most people are using laptops, tablets and/or auxiliary monitors, so the distances from their screens vary. The easiest solution in such cases is to simply increase the font size to a comfortable reading size on all of your screens, Coleman says. “That way you’re not fiddling with glasses every time you want to see what you’re working on.”
Adjust the contrast
Boosting the contrast on your monitors also can take the strain off your eyes, Coleman says. “More contrast is always good, especially for older adults. As we mature, we all start to develop cataracts — a yellowing or clouding of the lens of the eye. Contrast helps the light go through that yellow filter, so it will be a bit easier to see,” she says.
Too much glare — light that is brighter than the eyes can comfortably handle — from your screens can also lead to eyestrain, Coleman says. “A matte screen filter can help reduce glare and make computer time easier on your eyes.” I would add that a nearby window can create a lot of glare and you may have to move your office around to improve the lighting in your home office.
Buy a better monitor
Finally, a new monitor can do wonders for tired eyes, especially if you’re staring at a small laptop screen all day. “You can buy big, high-resolution screens that allow for very easy viewing,” Murray says. “The higher the pixel resolution, the sharper the text and images look, and the easier it is on your eyes to focus.” Many affordable auxiliary monitors are now available in 4K (considered ultra high-definition) resolution.