Eye Health vs Summer
Keeping your eyes healthy, especially in the hot summer months, requires you to be aware of a few things and to take just a few precautionary measures. Summer brings (alongside the heat and BBQs) increased exposure to sun, wind, sand and allergens, which of course can pose a certain risk to your eye health. Here are some strategies to make sure your eyes remain healthy throughout the summer season.
1. Wear Sunglasses: Sun exposure can damage your eyes and can lead to conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. Always wear sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays! Wearing a hat with a broad brim is also helpful for added protection. Remember, even on cloudy days, UV rays can cause sunburn of the cornea, or photokeratitis which can be really painful.
2. Stay Hydrated: Hydration is key, especially in summer! Dehydration can cause a decrease in tear production, which can lead to dry eye syndrome, a common summer complaint. To avoid this, drink plenty of water throughout the day and eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. There is no need to exaggerate on the water consumption front as a recent study found that higher water intake was not tied to reduced risk of dry eye disease, however more studies are needed to truly substantiate this conclusion.
3. Use Eye Protection: Going for a swim is a fantastic way to cool down, but the chlorine in swimming pools can cause your eyes to become irritated. Always wear goggles when swimming! Also, if you're doing outdoor sports or activities like cycling or gardening, wear protective eyewear to shield your eyes from the wind and dust.
4. Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes: With summer comes allergens that can cause your eyes to become itchy and red. Rubbing your eyes can worsen the situation and even lead to infections. Instead of rubbing them, try using a cool compress or over-the-counter eye drops for relief. If your symptoms persist, consult an eye care professional immediately.
5. Use Artificial Tears: Air conditioning, mainly used in the summer heat, can also lead to developing dry eyes. Over-the-counter artificial tears can help you maintain eye moisture but it is not effective in all cases. Additionally, make sure to avoid eye drops that promise to remove redness, as they usually contain chemicals that can harm your eyes over time.
6. Follow Good Contact Lens Hygiene: If you wear contact lenses, be on top of your lens hygiene routine during the summer. Always wash your hands before handling your lenses, and replace them according to your optometrist's recommendations. Consider wearing daily disposable contact lenses during the summer months in order to help reduce your risk of infection.
7. Be Screen Smart: Even though screen time increases in the fall and winter, our screen time for most of us that is, is still high during the summer. To prevent digital eye strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and stare at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Adjusting your screen's brightness, contrast, and font size can also help you reduce eye strain.
8. Get Regular Eye Exams: Having regular eye exams is the best defense against any potential eye problems. These exams can detect eye conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration in their early stages when they are at their most treatable stage. Even if your vision is considered good in your own opinion, an annual eye exam is a must.
9. Eat a Healthy Diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish can help protect your eyes. Foods high in vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
10. Don't Smoke: Smoking increases the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration. If you smoke, summer is a good time to quit, as you're likely spending more time outside and can potentially ‘escape from situations that trigger your urge to smoke’.
11. Rest Your Eyes: After a long day in the sun, it's important to give your eyes a rest. Sleep allows your eyes to fully recover and replenish essential nutrients which helps to maintain your overall eye health.
In summary, taking care of your eyes during the summer requires a few extra steps but the payoff is well worth it. Remember to protect your eyes from excessive sun exposure with good quality sunglasses and a hat. Staying hydrated is a must and so is a diet rich in essential nutrients. Your eyes need protection from irritants like chlorine and dust, and so the use of goggles or other protective eyewear can help.
Prevent dryness from air conditioning and extended screen time by using artificial tears and sticking to the 20-20-20 rule. If you are a contact lens wearer, summer means extra caution in maintaining your lens hygiene. Regular eye exams can catch early signs of potential issues.
Keeping away from harmful habits like smoking and ensuring you get adequate sleep will make a difference to the overall health of your eyes. Your allergies will most likely flare up in the summer months, so make sure not to rub your eyes and use soothing eye drops or a cool compress instead.
Summer is a time for relaxation and enjoyment. With these above tips, you can make sure that your eyes stay as healthy and vibrant as the season. Enjoy your summer, and keep your vision clear, and your eyes healthy!
Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 13 Jun 2023, Last modified: 21 Jun 2023