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7 Surprising Ways COVID-19 Can Enter Your Lungs

It can get in through the air—but also in ways you'd never think. 
Couple kissing

You've heard COVID-19 is airborne and a respiratory illness—so how could you get sick from your eyeglasses? Or by subtly picking your nose? The coronavirus works in mysterious ways. Here, some top doctors explain how it can enter through your lungs.

1

Kissing

handsome young man kissing happy girlfriend
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You shouldn't be having close personal contact with people you are not self-quarantining with. Dr. Sanul Corrielus explains, "personal contact with someone infected with the virus—like kissing—is a direct transfer of the virus between individuals and which can travel to the lungs."

2

Inhaling Contaminated Air

with sneezing at city street, woman without protective mask while spreading flu,cold, Covid-19
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"Being able to smell someone's breath means the person is within spatial and temporal range to inhale any particles present in that contaminated air," says Dr. Lili Barsky. "This reinforces the 6-foot plus distancing rule!" Another example from Leann Poston M.D is: "Walking through the air in which someone just coughed or sneezed droplets filled with COVID viral particles."

3

You're Not Cleaning Your Glasses

Caucasian man in medical mask disinfecting the glasses. Precaution against coronavirus or other infection. Studio shot on blue wall.
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"The virus can be transmitted across the mucus membrane of the eye or through the tear ducts that connect eyes to the nasal cavity and subsequently reach the lungs," says Dr. Jennifer Tsai, a VSP network eye doctor. "That is why keeping your glasses clean and not touching your eyes is so important to keep you and your loved ones safe."

4

Interconnected Air Ducts

man examining an outflow air vent grid and duct to see if it needs cleaning
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"In NYC, it was noted that most new cases developed in people who had been quarantining at home and alone in their apartments," says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a board-certified dermatologist and pediatrician in Beverly Hills, in private practice at SkinSafe Dermatology and Skin Care. "It was then discovered that viral particles became aerosolized and passed through interconnected air ducts, passing germs between apartment units. This is more common in older buildings, rather than newer ones, in which each unit may be more likely to have their own air ventilation systems."

5

Talking Face to Face

Three businesswomen on the coffee break in the office
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"Talking lets out more respiratory droplets than normal breathing," says Dr. Shainhouse. "10-15 minutes of talking to a carrier or infected person while unprotected can significantly increase the risk of inhaling enough viral particles to become infected."

6

Picking Your Nose 

man is picking his nose.
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If there's a good time to drop certain bad habits, it's now. "Theoretically, if someone had the virus on their hands and then stuck their finger in their nose, they might inhale the virus," says Jan Watson, MD.

7

Secondhand Smoke

woman smoking cigarette near people
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"Secondhand smoke exposure can damage the lungs, facilitating lung entry," says Dr. Barsky. "Some earlier studies suggested that the virus can attach to secondhand smoke or e-cigarette aerosol particles and be spread further in a smoker's environment."

Be careful out there—and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Emilia Paluszek
Emilia specializes in human biology and psychology at the University at Albany. Read more
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