BrushUp Newsletter: Summer 2011 - Protect your eyes

Tips on how to protect the eyes when outdoors

Eye-opening information: how to protect your eyes from summertime dangers

Summer is a great time for vacations, relaxing and outdoor fun. It's good to forget about the cares of the day! But don't forget the simple things you need to do to protect your eyes. Things like bright sunshine, power mowers, fireworks, and pool chemicals can mean a real risk of eye injury. Here are smart tips to start following now.

Wear good sunglasses and a hat with a brim

People are getting used to protecting their skin from UVA and UVB rays with sunscreen. But your eyes need protection, too. Richard O'Brien, MD, is an emergency physician with the Moses Taylor Hospital in Pennsylvania. Medical writer, Star Lawrence, quotes him in Five Ways to Protect Your Eyes in Summer on WebMD. "A lot of people come to the ER with burned corneas each summer," said Dr. O'Brien. The cornea is the clear outer covering of the eye. "People may spend a whole day in the sun without wearing a visor cap and sunglasses. They are fine at first, then go home, go to sleep, and wake up in an hour in excruciating pain."

In addition to pain, UV rays can cause long term damage to the eyes. The American Optometric Association (AOA) says the effects of exposure to sunlight build over time. There seems to be a strong link between sun exposure and a number of serious eye problems. So it's very important for children and teens to protect their eyes. They tend to spend more time in the sun. And the lenses of their eyes are clearer, which allows more UV rays through.

The following tips from the AOA can help prevent damage from UV light:
  • Wear protective eyewear any time you are out in the sun.
  • Look for quality sunglasses that offer good protection. Sunglasses should block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVA rays. They should also screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light.
  • Check to make sure sunglass lenses match in color. They should be free of distortion and scratches.
  • Buy gray colored lenses. They reduce light without changing the color of objects, for the most natural color vision.
  • Don't forget protection for your children and teenagers.

Having trouble getting your child to wear sunglasses?

Troy Bedinghaus, DO, board certified optometric doctor, says to let your child help pick them out. "Sunglasses don't have to be expensive brands," said Dr. Bedinghaus. "But toy sunglasses can do more harm than good. Toy shades just darken the eye and enlarge the pupils, allowing more damaging light to reach the inside of the eye. Choose a pair that is labeled '100 percent UV filtration.'" It's also helpful to set a good example. Wear sunglasses yourself and your child will learn to copy you.

Protecting your eyes from the sun, however, is just one way to keep them safe in the summer. Here are other important tips.

Wear eye protection when doing home projects

Mowing the lawn, trimming weeds, sawing, hammering nails, and chopping wood all send debris flying. In Five Ways to Protect Your Eyes in Summer, eye doctor Richard Bensinger, MD, offered this important advice: The person doing the activity and all those nearby should wear eye protection. This means professional quality goggles from a home supply store.

Protect your eyes during sports and games

In general, the bigger the ball, the less likely it is to cause an eye injury. As Dr. Bensinger said, "A basketball is unlikely to injure eyes. But baseballs and softballs can, as can golf balls, squash, and handballs." The U.S. Eye Injury Registry reports that five percent of all eye injuries are caused by baseballs. Always wear protection that's right for the sport.

Of course, other sports and games can be dangerous to eyes as well. They include playing with pellet or dart guns, archery and paintball. Adults need to be watchful and make children wear protective eyewear when they're involved in these activities.

Watch out for chemicals

If pool water stings your eyes, get out. "Rinse your eyes immediately with clean water, even if you have to buy a bottle," said Dr. Bensinger. And don't wear contact lenses in lake or pond water. Infections can result from germs that stay under the lens. They would be likely to wash out if no contact was in place.

In addition, Dr. O'Brien warns people to be very careful around poison ivy, oak and sumac. You have only a few minutes to wash it off if the plant's oil gets into your eyes. Insect bites around the eyes can cause problems, too. Just be careful not to get repellant into your eyes. It's a good idea to spray it on your hands first, then gently rub it onto your face.

Always leave fireworks to the pros

The statistics tell the story. The American Academy of Ophthalmology tells us that fireworks hurt 8,500 people every year in the United States. More than 2,000 of these injuries are to the eye. About one-third of them lead to permanent eye damage. The best thing to do when it comes to fireworks is leave them to the professionals.

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