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Policies and protocols regarding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line medical professionals continue to evolve in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while surgical masks, respirators, and gloves have been points of emphasis, another important form of PPE, protective eyewear, should not be overlooked.
According to the most recently published EPINet® report for blood and body fluid exposures,1 fewer than 12% of healthcare workers who reported such an exposure during 2020 were wearing any kind of protective eyewear and, perhaps unsurprisingly, more than 71% of the reported exposures were to the eyes. The same EPINet report also indicates that more than one-third of blood and body fluid exposures took place in the patient room or on the ward.
Infectious agents can be introduced through the mucous membranes of the eye in several ways, including blood splashes, respiratory droplets generated during coughing, and touching the eyes with contaminated fingers. For many years now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the use of eye protection in a variety of potential exposure settings where workers may be at risk of acquiring infectious diseases via ocular exposure.2
Today, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) specifically recommends that healthcare workers with exposure to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients wear eye protection.3 This recommendation aligns well with a recent study reported in The Lancet that found the use of eye protection to be associated with less SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV infection.4
When talking about safeguarding the eyes, it is worth noting that prescription eyeglasses are not protective eyewear. While prescription eyeglasses may block a direct splash, they leave the wearer’s eyes vulnerable to indirect splashes as well as droplets and aerosols. Protective items like face shields and eye shields, on the other hand, are designed purposefully for contamination prevention.
The benefits5 of using a face shield, as given in a recent viewpoint article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), include:
While there has been a dramatic increase in glove use over the past few decades as part of the effort to limit the transmission of HIV and other bloodborne pathogens from patients to healthcare workers,6 it remains to be seen whether COVID-19 will create a sea change in the use of protective eyewear.
To meet evolving needs, TIDI Products offers a broad range of protective eyewear solutions for nurses, including pre-assembled medical eye shields in a gravity-fed dispenser that can be conveniently placed at the point-of-care, as well as wrap-around, anti-fog medical face shields. TIDI also offers nurses continuing education opportunities relating to protective eyewear and other topics of interest.