The virus that causes COVID-19 mainly spreads when a sick person coughs or sneezes tiny, virus-filled droplets that someone else inhales. Those droplets might also land on a nearby surface. If another person touches this surface, and then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes, they could become sick with COVID-19. Touching these areas can lead to infection because they are what’s called “mucus membranes” and have cells that coronavirus can infect.
But can the coronavirus infect you through your ears? No. The outer ear—the part that you can see plus the ear canal—is not a mucus membrane. The outer ear blocks germs, like viruses and bacteria, from getting inside.
Ear wax is a physical barrier and contains some chemicals that help kill germs. And the eardrum (also known as the tympanic membrane) creates another barrier between your outer ear and middle ear, which is the part of the ear behind the eardrum.
Ear infections happen in the middle ear, but those germs usually travel from the nose and mouth to the ear, not the other way around.
So don’t touch your face and do keep washing your hands, but don’t worry about catching the novel coronavirus through your ears.
Last update: May 19, 2020, 10:54 pm ET
Science review: ERS, GSN