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A Letter to our Neighbours! By Dr. M. Jafferji

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Dear Neighbours, April 14, 2020

Just over a month ago everything seemed normal but then COVID-19 happened and turned many of our lives, upside down. Like myself I’m sure many of you have a new or renewed perspective on life. My purpose in writing to you, as an eye doctor and a health care practitioner, is to provide insight and hopefully reduce stress and anxiety during this challenging time. It will propel you through this pandemic knowing that you are prepared to the best of your ability and knowledge to face the potential consequences of this virus. If we can create some peace in our minds then our physical bodies will follow. This letter covers basic information about COVID-19, best practices and recommendations including specific advice on how to prepare for an infection if it does occur, and finally specific information about the impact of COVID-19 on your eyes.


As most of us are now aware, COVID-19 is severe respiratory disease caused by a highly contagious and novel coronavirus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  1. Dry itchy throat and cough
  2. High temperature
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Red eyes/pink eyes with watery discharge


While there are plenty of recommendations on preventing transmission of COVID-19 in the first place like frequent hand washing, optimizing personal hygiene and physical distancing, there has not been a great deal of advice for what to do if you actually get it. The reality is that by the time this pandemic has run its course, many of us may have contracted it or may know people that may have got it. Mindset and preparation are and will be everything.

So, as your friendly neighbourhood health care practitioner allow me to make some suggestions. These suggestions are not exhaustive and individuals who have lung disease, chronic heart disease, uncontrolled diabetes, or are immunocompromised should undoubtedly take more precautions. In fact, they should stay mostly indoors and isolated as much as possible. The rest of us should start with the basics. Healthy eating habits and regular exercise to improve lung capacity should be on everyone’s daily to-do list.  We are all aware that some level of preparation is necessary, but what kind of preparation?

Think of it this way: imagine that you know ahead of time that you’re going to get a nasty respiratory bug, like bronchitis or pneumonia.  These are the key items you should actually buy and prep ahead of time (spoiler alert – toilet paper is NOT on the list):

  • Kleenex
  • Acetaminophen/ Tylenol
  • A generic, mucus thinning cough medicine of your choice (check the label and make sure you’re not doubling up on acetaminophen)
  • Honey and lemon can work just as well!
  • Vicks Vaporub for your chest is also a great idea.
  • A humidifier would be a good thing to buy and use in your room overnight. Alternatively, before going to bed just turn the shower on hot and sit in the bathroom to breathe in the steam.
  • If you have a history of asthma and you have a prescription inhaler, make sure the one you have isn’t expired and get a refill if necessary.
  • This is also a good time to meal prep: make a big batch of your favorite soup to freeze and have on hand.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Stock up on whatever your favorite clear fluids are to drink – though tap water is fine you may appreciate some variety.
  • For symptom management and a fever over 38°c, take acetaminophen rather than Ibuprofen.
  • Rest, rest, rest. If you are at all unwell you should not be leaving your house!  Even if you are feeling better after a period of illness you may will still be infectious for fourteen days and older people and those with existing health conditions should be avoided.
  • Wear gloves and a mask to avoid contaminating others in your house.
  • Isolate in your bedroom if you live with others.  Ask friends and family to leave supplies outside to avoid contact.
  • Sanitize your bed linens and clothes frequently by washing and clean your bathroom with recommended sanitizers.
  • You DO NOT NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL unless you are having trouble breathing or your fever is very high (over 39°C) and unmanaged with acetaminophen.
  • One major relief to parents is that kids do very well with coronavirus. They usually bounce back in a few days but they will still be infectious. Just use pediatric dosing for Tylenol.
  • 90% of healthy adult cases thus far have been managed at home with basic rest, hydration and over-the-counter meds.
  • If you have a pre-existing lung condition (COPD, emphysema, lung cancer) or are on immunosuppressants, now is a great time to talk to your doctor or specialist about what they would like you to do if you get sick.


While rare, COVID-19 can affect the eyes and cause follicular conjunctivitis.  There have been reported cases as indicated in The American Journal of Ophthalmology where mild diffuse eye redness and watery secretions were the first signs to show in COVID-19 patients, especially in elderly patients. There is also evidence of SARS-CoV-2 virus in tears of COVID-19 patients with conjunctivitis (although infectious virus has not yet been cultured from the conjunctiva of any COVID-19 patient, so the transmission of the virus in this manner has not been proven).

Most importantly be calm and prepare rationally and your stress and anxiety will undoubtedly be manageable. Having a positive attitude and the confidence to beat this virus is crucial in keeping us sane. Through history humans have fought many pandemics and this too shall pass.

If you or your family show any signs of diffuse redness and watery in one or both eyes or have any other eye or vision related urgencies, then we may be able to help you as eye care professionals and first responders.

At Urban Opticians we are here to support our Thornhill, Vaughan and Richmond Hill communities needs and so we continue to accept patients with eye and vision related urgencies on a case by case basis during this time. Call us at 905-731-0341 on weekdays from 11pm-3pm, OR call/text us at 647-802-7863 after hours and on weekends. We follow strict PPE (personal protective equipment) and disinfection guidelines after every patient we see to prevent community spread.

For your health and safety always,

Dr. Murtaza Jafferji, O.D


20-9200 Bathurst St.

Thornhill, ON  L4J 8W1