Most of us remember to put on sunscreen and to wear a hat when they’re going to be in the sun over the summer, but we need to start thinking about protecting our eyes.
Powerful UV rays from the sun can penetrate the skin, and long exposure times can cause damage.
Two things to have near you this summer are a hat and UV-protection sunglasses.
Summer is in full swing, and it’s a great time to get outside, stretch your legs and let loose a little. While most people remember to slather on sunscreen and put on a hat if they’re going to be in the sun, it’s essential not to forget to protect something else from sun’s glare: your eyes.
Whether you’re heading out on vacation, running errands or taking a dip in the pool, shielding your eyes from UV radiation will go a long way toward preserving your long-term vision as you age against cataracts and macular degeneration for years to come.
What to Bring on Vacation
Sunglasses are a must when you go on vacation—for driving and for when you’re outside having fun or sightseeing. So, too, is a sun-shielding hat.
If you don’t have a quality pair of shades yet, don’t just pick up a cool-looking pair from a rack at the drugstore. Read the specs: Check to see how much UV radiation the lenses will shield from your eyes while outside. UV400 provides the strongest protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
It is also a good idea to consider glasses that feature lenses that wrap around your eyes. This helps protect your peripheral vision. Wrap-arounds are also beneficial when you’re driving, running, walking, playing golf or engaging in other outdoor activities like watching your kids play sports.
If you’re a sportsperson and have plans to play soccer, golf, beach volleyball, ride horses, run or cycle, look for sunglasses with polycarbonate lenses. These strong, lightweight lenses can protect you against a range of potential eye injuries should you have a collision or fall.
Beware of “bargains” you may find on vacation. Those $10 and $15 name-brand sunglasses may seem like a good deal, but they are probably knockoffs that will provide little to no protection against UV radiation.
You will also want to pack a hat for your summer trips. Something as simple as a baseball cap will give your eyes a break.
Even better is a fishing cap that features a longer bill. It will create shade not just for your eyes but also your nose. (Both will protect any top-of-the-head bald spots.)
Best of all, though, is a sunshade hat. This kind of head topping features an all-around brim that can provide shade on all sides of your eyes no matter what position the sun is in.
Finally, seek out shade. The less time you spend directly beneath the sun’s beating rays, the more protection your eyes will enjoy.
UVA rays can penetrate deep within the skin’s tissues, including the eye’s cornea. They are powerful and can easily damage the lens and retina. There are roughly 500 times more UVA rays than UVB rays which most sunscreens are designed to protect against.
Naturally, the earth’s tilt, climate, cloud cover, etc., can all affect your exposure to UVA and UVB rays.
The National Weather Service rates U.S. cities on a 0-15 scale, with zero meaning there is minimal UVA/UVB radiation and pose less risk of injury. Cities rated from 10-15 pose a significant risk, and it is quite possible to develop photokeratitis (essentially an eye sunburn) in these regions.
If your city is at the low end of the risk spectrum, you should wear sunscreen and UV-rated sunglasses. If you live on the high end, you should wear make sunscreen, UV sunglasses, hats and umbrellas a priority. And you should stay out of the sun during peak sun hours.
Eye Safety in Pools
Leave your contacts at home if you plan to swim this summer. Bacteria and micro-organisms easily attach to contact lenses and lead to serious eye infections, including potential damage to the cornea and vision loss.
If you do need help seeing while swimming, invest in a pair of watertight goggles. (If you need prescription goggles, you can get them.)
Goggles allow you to swim and snorkel and play in the water without risking your eyesight to enjoy the view underwater.
You may want to take some eye drops with you to the pool to protect against chloramine and the dry eyes it can cause. This compound forms when the chlorine in the water comes into contact with urine, soil, and natural oil. Eye drops can rehydrate your eyes quickly and effectively.
Careful with Fireworks
Always wear glasses when using fireworks. Whether it’s sparklers, screaming Mimi’s, bottle rockets, or mortars, glasses will protect against sparks, flames, and shrapnel.
Roughly 15% of all fireworks injuries are to the eyes. When using fireworks, make sure children, adults, and pets maintain a safe distance from any active firework.
Likewise, do not touch unexploded fireworks and never use handheld fireworks. While legal, many handheld fireworks such as sparklers can cause significant eye injuries.
If something happens and an injury occurs, seek prompt medical attention. Do not rub or rinse the eyes. Nor should you attempt to remove any debris lodged in the eye.
Limit Time Spent Playing Video Games
Playing video games for a little while is fine. But engaging in marathon sessions can lead to eye fatigue, blurred vision and headaches. Limiting your computer and TV screen exposure can help prevent these injuries and the physical discomfort they cause.
When playing games, take regular breaks every 20-30 minutes. This will help the eyes rest.
Similarly, sit back from the screen a minimum of two feet for computer screens and six feet for television screens. If you play games on a mobile phone, one foot is sufficient distance.
What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays? University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Date fetched: June 28, 2021.
Fireworks Eye Safety. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Date fetched: June 28, 2021.