“People who get COVID and become sick with COVID are much more likely to get all the other symptoms that you hear about, read about all the time — the coughing, loss of smell, the loss of ability to taste, and so forth,” Sommer says.
Coronavirus prevention also protects against pink eye
While pink eye is often associated with children because of its ability to spread quickly in a school setting, anyone, including older adults, can get it. “The viruses that cause pink eye don’t discriminate,” Sommer says. (And pink eye is often due to a virus, he adds.)
If you develop the warning signs of pink eye — including a pink or red color in the white area of the eye, swelling of the membrane that lines the eye, and increased tear production — and are concerned about the infection and any relation it may have to COVID-19, reach out to your doctor or ophthalmologist. Pain in the eye, blurred or impaired vision, and light sensitivity warrant more immediate medical attention.
A physician can usually determine the cause of the irritated eye and then prescribe the appropriate treatment, if any is required. Antibiotics can help shorten the length of infection and reduce complications if the pink eye is caused by bacteria, the CDC says. Antiviral medication may be prescribed for severe cases of viral conjunctivitis.
“[Pink eye] is usually not dangerous; it’s just uncomfortable,” Sommer says. It’s also highly contagious.
The good news: A lot of the things people are doing right now to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — frequent handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting, keeping their hands away from their face — also help to block the transmission of pink eye.
“Should somebody get pink eye, the one thing they absolutely have to recognize is they need to keep their hands away from that eye” and away from other people, Sommer adds. Pink eye caused by allergens or irritants, however, is not contagious unless a secondary viral or bacterial infection develops, the CDC says.
In addition to contacting your ophthalmologist with pink-eye concerns, Sommer says older adults with certain eye conditions that require routine care — glaucoma and macular degeneration, for example — should be in touch with their eye doctors about receiving regular tests and treatments during the pandemic to prevent further eye damage. Similar to primary care practices and dentist offices, most ophthalmologists have resumed seeing patients and are practicing precautions to keep everyone safe.