Eyes are extremely delicate organs, but it’s easy to forget to properly care for them during the winter months. Summer time is the time most people associate with bright sun and irritants like sand or chlorinated pool water, but winter can hide just as many hazards. In order to help protect you and your family’s eyes this winter, follow these three easy tips:
1) Wear the right eye protection.
Whether you’re eager to hit the slopes this winter, or just enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking, don’t forget wear a set of sport sunglasses or goggles with polarized lenses. Snow has a nasty tendency to reflect sunlight, which means that being outdoors with snow on the ground means your eyes are getting an extra dose of UV light. Exposure may even lead to snow blindness (or photokeratitis), a condition akin to a sunburn affecting the conjunctiva and cornea.
If you’re an avid skier, you should also never forget that the higher up you are, the less protection the atmosphere affords you– that means that when you’re up on a mountain, there isn’t nearly as much standing between your eyes and skin and damaging solar radiation. Protect your eyes, and be sure to cover any exposed skin with sunscreen.
2) Keep dry eyes comfortable.
People with dry eyes often find that their condition is exacerbated during the wintertime, and even people who don’t experience regular dryness can end up feeling uncomfortable. Don’t make yourself suffer through dry air this winter– use a humidifier in the rooms you occupy the most to help restore ambient humidity to a healthy level. If that isn’t enough to give your eyes some relief, talk to your optometrist or ophthalmologist about prescription or over-the-counter drops to help keep your eyes adequately moisturized. It’s also a good idea to avoid prolonged activities that cause eye strain, as these
3) Don’t forget that kids need protection, too.
Conditions like snow blindness aren’t just scary, they’re painful. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle when it comes to protecting children’s eyes from winter hazards is noncompliance. Many children (young children in particular) are difficult to coax into properly wearing sunglasses or goggles, which means that parents have to be extra vigilant when it comes to protecting kids’ eyes from too much reflected UV light. Since the symptoms of photokeratitis don’t appear until several hours after exposure, keeping an eye on children and bringing them indoors when they begin to experience discomfort is not enough.
Parents of growing children should replace kids’ sunglasses and goggles as they’re outgrown, and should invest in straps to properly secure them while they’re being worn. Comfortable, well-fitting sunglasses and goggles will go a long way toward making sure young children keep them on while they’re outdoors.
It’s great to get outside and enjoy winter weather. As long as you keep these three winter eye care tips in mind, you’ll be able to hike, ski, and play in the snow to your heart’s content, without your eyes having to pay the price.