Wearing glasses does not reduce risk of COVID-19

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A new JAMA Network Open study determines the impact of wearing glasses on the risk of infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and other respiratory viruses.

Study: Effect of Wearing Glasses on Risk of Infection With SARS-CoV-2 in the Community A Randomized Clinical Trial. Image Credit: dissx

Study: Effect of Wearing Glasses on Risk of Infection With SARS-CoV-2 in the Community A Randomized Clinical Trial. Image Credit: dissx 

Can eyeglasses prevent infection?

The importance of eye protective gear for protection against infection was initially proposed over 100 years ago. However, it received little attention during the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, except as an additional form of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

Wearing glasses can be a simple form of eye protection. Many people can easily access sunglasses, and it takes little effort to use them daily. In addition, repurposing sunglasses for infection control purposes can be a safe, simple, and environmentally friendly measure.

Previous observational studies have reported an association between wearing sunglasses and a lower risk of respiratory viruses. However, no clinical trials have investigated the role of eye protection on respiratory virus infection.

About the study

The current study was conducted between February 2, 2022, to April 24, 2022, in Norway and recruited participants through online, print, media advertisements, and emails to people who belonged to the survey panel of two data collection companies.

Participants were included in the study if they were at least 18 years of age, owned or borrowed glasses that they could use, did not wear glasses regularly, did not contract COVID-19 six months before the start of the study, did not experience COVID-19 symptoms during recruitment, were willing to be randomly assigned to wear or not wear sunglasses for two weeks when close to others, and provided informed consent.

The study participants were randomized and blinded into two groups, one of which was asked to wear sunglasses or other types of glasses when close to people outside their home, whereas the other was asked not to wear sunglasses for 14 days.

The primary outcome included a positive COVID-19 test result that was reported within three to 17 days of the study period. Secondary outcomes included a positive COVID-19 test result, an episode of respiratory infection, one respiratory symptom or fever along with at least two or more COVID-19-related symptoms, or the use of healthcare for respiratory symptoms, injuries, or any other reason.

Furthermore, the study participants were asked about their adherence to the use of face masks and testing behaviors and any negative experiences during the study period. The screening and collection of all data were carried out using the web-based survey platform Nettskjema.

Study findings

A total of 3,717 participants were included in the study, 1,852 of whom were assigned to the intervention group and 1,865 to the control group. Sixty-eight and 65 participants in the intervention and control groups, respectively, reported a history of COVID-19. About one-third of the participants reported respiratory infection symptoms, with a higher proportion in the control group as compared to the intervention group.

Moreover, 70.5% of participants reported using glasses, and 39.5% reported using face masks at least 50% of the time in the intervention group. Additionally, the proportion of participants traveling by public transport to work or school was lower in the intervention group than in the control group.

A total of 76 participants reported negative experiences of participating in the study due to the fogging of glasses when worn with a mask. Other experiences included discomfort, reduced vision, tiredness, and headaches.

The study findings indicated that wearing glasses did not confer any protection against COVID-19. However, wearing glasses is simple, low cost, and low burden and, as a result, might be worth considering as a component of infection control.


The results of the study are inconclusive. Furthermore, the study might comprise a risk of bias for survey-based outcomes. A third limitation was the small size of the study population.

Journal reference:
  • Fretheim, A., Elgersma, I. H., Helleve, A., et al. (2022). Effect of Wearing Glasses on Risk of Infection With SARS-CoV-2 in the Community A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Network Open. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.44495.
Suchandrima Bhowmik

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Suchandrima Bhowmik

Suchandrima has a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Microbiology and a Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree in Microbiology from the University of Calcutta, India. The study of health and diseases was always very important to her. In addition to Microbiology, she also gained extensive knowledge in Biochemistry, Immunology, Medical Microbiology, Metabolism, and Biotechnology as part of her master's degree.


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