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The spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the illness COVID-19, is at the top of everyone’s mind. If you wear glasses or contacts, or have a chronic eye condition such as glaucoma or cataracts, you may have questions about at-home eye care or whether you’ll be able to keep your upcoming eye appointment.

Our top concern is keeping our patients and members, their families and our communities safe and healthy.

Read on for guidance and ways you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

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Here’s what you need to know

Information is still new.

Because the COVID-19 outbreak is still new, doctors don’t have a lot of specific information on this strain of coronavirus for eye patients. However, they do have a lot of information regarding the risk of infections in general.

Symptoms of a COVID-19 infection can resemble that of a cold or flu, and can last up to 14 days:

  • Fever
  • Cough 
  • Shortness of breath (beyond your usual day-to-day symptoms)

COVID-19 symptoms can appear as early as 2 days and as late as 14 days after exposure. 

If you feel like you’re developing symptoms, call your doctor.

If you’re having symptoms you think may be related to COVID-19, before you visit a doctor’s office, clinic or emergency room, call your doctor or our 24/7 hotline at 570-284-3657 for care guidance or to talk with a nurse, especially if:

  • You’ve been in close contact with a person who has flu-like symptoms, confirmed flu or has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • You live in or have recently traveled to an area known to have an outbreak of the disease.

Watch for emergency warning signs.

Seek immediate medical attention if you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, including:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Bluish lips or skin 
  • Sudden confusion or inability to awaken

In an emergency, call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room.

What if a family member develops symptoms?

Take the following precautions if a family member shows symptoms of flu or COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands often, and make sure your family member does the same.
  • Keep surfaces in your house clean.
  • Maintain a safe distance.
    • Sleep in different rooms.
    • Don’t eat at the same table.

Following these guidelines can be difficult if you have children. We encourage you to have a candid discussion with your family about the risks you face and your need to maintain a safe distance and keep the house sanitized.

How you can protect your eye health

One of the ways you can protect yourself from COVID-19 is by protecting your eyes. When someone who is sick coughs or sneezes, the virus spreads through the air. While you’re most likely to inhale the virus through your nose or mouth, the virus can still be contracted through your eyes. 

That’s why it’s so important to practice good eye health through common-sense prevention measures.

If you wear contacts, you may want to consider switching to glasses during this time. Not only will it give your eyes a break from contacts, it may help you touch your face and eyes less. 

If you continue to use contacts, these tips will help you avoid eye irritation or infection:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) before putting contacts in and before removing them.
  • Try to avoid eye contact with water and take your contacts out before showering.
  • Don’t reuse solution in your case — replace solution daily and don’t add water to it.
  • Rub and rinse your lenses to clean them. Rub your contact lenses with your fingers (gently), then rinse with solution before soaking them.
  • Don’t wear your contacts for longer than they’re meant to be worn. Clean them regularly and replace them at the end of their cycle — whether that’s daily, bi-weekly or monthly.
  • Don’t sleep in your contacts. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for how long to keep them in.
  • Don’t use solution as eye drops. If your contacts are dry, use eye drops made for lubricating your eyes, switch to your glasses or wear a new pair of contacts.
  • Clean your case by rinsing it with solution, then allow it to air dry. Don’t clean your case with water.

If you need to order new contacts, call 570-271-8006.

Should I keep regularly scheduled follow-up appointments?

If you’re doing well and have no symptoms, consider contacting your doctor to ask if routine follow-up care is necessary right now or if a telemedicine virtual care visit is an option. Avoiding a clinic or hospital visit would limit your risk.

And if you have mild symptoms of fever, runny nose and cough, stay home, just like you would if you had a cold.

If you must visit a clinic, be prepared to put on a mask when you arrive.

If you have any doubts or questions about visiting a healthcare site, call the Geisinger coronavirus hotline — 570-284-3657 — before your appointment.

Is my caregiver/family member allowed to accompany me to an appointment?

Guidelines are changing as the situation evolves and we work to keep patients safe. For the latest information, check our temporary visitor policy. 

How you can protect yourself

As with the flu, the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is through common-sense prevention measures:

  • Practice social distancing. Don’t shake hands, avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet away from others. 
  • Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing or visiting public areas. Alcohol-based sanitizers and wipes with at least 60% alcohol are also good options for hand hygiene.
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Keep surfaces clean and disinfected at your home, workplace and school.

Take extra care to avoid crowded and closed public spaces, such as public transportation, theaters and restaurants. Limit travel — especially on planes or cruise ships, which should be avoided. 
This doesn’t mean you’re housebound. You can take walks outside and even go grocery shopping at off-peak hours if necessary. Be sure to bring your own bags and disinfect cart handles. Wash your hands or use sanitizer after using the cart. Hand hygiene is critical.

Most importantly, if you are feeling sick or showing signs of an illness, be very cautious about going into public spaces and stay home from work or school.

What is coronavirus and COVID-19? 

Coronaviruses are a large family of diverse, common viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from a common cold to a severe lower respiratory tract infection, like pneumonia. The novel (new) coronavirus you’ve been hearing about, which originated in Wuhan, China, results in an illness called COVID-19. 

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that usually includes not only an upper respiratory tract infection, but also a lower respiratory tract infection, which can lead to pneumonia and breathing issues. 

How is COVID-19 spread?

Coronaviruses, including the one causing COVID-19, spread like most respiratory viruses, including the flu or a cold:

  • Droplets traveling through the air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it
  • Although the virus RNA can be found in stool samples, spreading through feces is not likely

Symptoms of a COVID-19 infection can resemble that of a cold or flu and typically include a fever, shortness of breath and cough.

For the latest information, including more detailed responses to some common questions, visit the following websites:

Geisinger optometry patients can order a 90-day supply of contact lenses (even if their current Rx has expired) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Call the Geisinger Eye Center at 570-271-8006.

Geisinger COVID-19 hotline

570-284-3657

Call our 24/7 hotline for answers about care recommendations and more.

Visit Geisinger’s Coronavirus Resource Center for the latest information and helpful resources.

Get virtual care now

Need to order new contacts?

Call us today at 570-271-8006