When it comes to camping, we know we should bring sunscreen to protect our skin from UV rays, and outdoor gear to protect us from the elements, but what about our eyes? Without proper protection, your eyes can in fact get sunburned. If you are summer camping, or participating in outdoor sports this summer, here are some simple tips so you can maintain good vision for many summers to come!
There is sunscreen lotion for your skin but what is there for people to protect their eyes?
1. Wear UV Sunglasses in Summer
Yes it is obvious, but wear sunglasses that have complete UV protection. Our skin isn’t the only part of our body that needs protection from the harsh ultraviolet rays, our eyes do too. In summer, it is particularly important as the UV rays are stronger, and more likely to damage our eyes. The increased sunlight also reflects off of surfaces like glass, shiny office buildings, water, and sand.
The easiest and best way to protect your eyes in summer is to buy, and constantly wear sunglasses that offer 100% protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Unfortunately not all sunglasses are created equal, so the cheap pair picked up at the gas station, or a vintage pair purchased at a thrift store may not have the appropriate UV coating to protect your eyes. Cheaper sunglasses may not provide complete protection, whereas more expensive pairs often are a better bet for full spectrum coverage. While it is more crucial to wear sunglasses in summer, you can still be exposed to UV on cloudy days. Most people can easily recall a time they spent hours in the shade only to be shocked that their skin was burnt. The same can happen with your eyes.
2. Summer Calls For Hats
Sunglasses are definitely the first step in protecting your eyes in summer, but there are gaps on the sides of the sunglasses that still allow UV rays in. Combining your sunglasses with a hat provides additional protection from the harsh summer rays and minimizes your exposure. The best hats are those with a wide brim around the entire hat, such as a bucket hat or “boater”. A baseball cap is also a good solution, ideally the brim is approximately 3 inches wide to provide consistent protection around your eyes. There are also significantly more wide brim hat options available, particularly for women, over the last few years that are both stylish and provide necessary summer protection.
3. Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes
Even prior to COVID-19, washing your hands and avoiding touching your face and eyes was one of the best ways to protect yourself from communicable diseases — and this still holds true. The simple habit of washing your hands on a regular basis can help avoid contracting eye conditions like conjunctivitis (pink eye).
If you recently had eye surgery, such as LASIK/PRK, you are at increased risk for infection. Heightened cleanliness and avoiding touching your eyes will be vital. This includes putting in, and taking out contacts, applying eye drops and avoiding touching your eyes in general.
80% of a person’s lifetime UVR exposure occurs prior to the age of 18.– The World Health Organization
4. Use Goggles in Summer
A frequent summer activity can be taking your family to the pool. Start eye education when your children are young, as children are far more likely to spend time playing outside, particularly during the summer months. The World Health Organization notes that as much as 80% of a person’s lifetime UVR exposure occurs prior to the age of 18.
Goggles may not seem necessary for most, but there are many athletic activities where sunglasses are not ideal. For example, mountain biking, skiing, biking, swimming, rock climbing, and particularly any outdoor activity near water or snow. Both water and snow are very reflective. On a sunny day, clean fresh snow can reflect up to 90% of UV radiation. This means that you can be exposed to almost a double dose of UV. In addition to protecting your eyes from the sun, goggles help protect against germs and debris getting into your eyes.
5. Extra Caution in Extreme Summer Temperatures
Once the temperature hits 30°C (90°F) or above, it’s considered hot and you should exercise extreme caution.. Did you know that at these temperatures prolonged exposure to bright, direct sunlight has the same effect on campers as if it was an additional 15°F warmer. Your eyes can get sunburnt just like your skin, and lack of eye moisture can cause irritation and burning. Seek shade, it is obvious but particularly in the middle of the day when the temperatures can be at its hottest, it is best to avoid staying in direct sunlight.
Book an appointment with your Optometrist if you have any of the following symptoms for more than one or two days — your eyes have likely been overexposed to ultraviolet rays:
- Red eyes
- Extreme light sensitivity
- Gritty feeling in your eyes
- Temporary vision loss, or distorted vision
- Seeing halos
- Blurry or dim vision
- Night vision issues
6. Keep Active, Not Just in Summer
We often take our sight for granted and forget the body is inexorably interlinked. Staying physically active can help lower your risk of diseases which can contribute to developing vision problems and that can contribute to reduced eye health — like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
When you are out this summer, remember protecting your eyes from UV rays is the only way to avoid getting them sunburned. When to be extra careful:
- Near Water: UV rays reflect off the water.
- Near Snow: Particularly when snowboarding or skiing. Snow is highly reflective. On a sunny day, clean fresh snow can reflect up to 90% of UV radiation. This means that you can be exposed to almost a double dose of UV.
- Dense City Dwelling: UV rays easily reflect off windows, cars, buildings and even concrete streets. Regardless if the sun is visible or not outside, ultraviolet rays are present and capable of damaging your eyes.
Have High Blood Pressure? Check out these tips from The Mayo Clinic.
7. Eat Healthy Summer Produce
Taking care of your eyes starts with healthy food. Luckily, in summer we have an overabundance of delicious produce, fruits and vegetables, that make it even easier to eat healthy. Aside from obvious health reasons, nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E can help to prevent age-related vision problems like macular degeneration and cataracts. Maintaining, or actively working towards a healthy weight helps reduce the risk of obesity related diseases like type 2 diabetes, which is the leading cause of blindness in adults. Check out these nutrient rich food sources:
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collards.
- Salmon, tuna, and other oily fish.
- Eggs, nuts, and other non-meat protein sources like chickpeas, lentils, and beans.
- Oranges and other citrus fruits or juices.
- Oysters and pork.
Vitamin C, Vitamin E and zinc supplements can assist with symptoms of age-related macular degeneration as they help slow, or prevent, symptoms from progressing. Unsure if you need supplements?
8. Summer = Drink Plenty of Water
It is easy for us to become dehydrated in the warmer months and this can affect our eyes. With severe dehydration, our body has a more difficult time producing tears which can lead to unpleasant dry eye symptoms that include:
- A stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes
- Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
- Contact lens discomfort
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye redness
- A sensation of having something in your eyes
- Difficulty with nighttime driving and glare
- Watery eyes (a common symptom)
- Blurred vision, fluctuating clarity or eye fatigue
Drinking plenty of water can prevent and counteract the negative effects of dehydration, and provide adequate moisture for normal eye function.
- Hydrate. Not all liquids are equal, ensure you have lots of water or drinks with salts and electrolytes.
- Limit Spirits. Alcohol can impair your body’s ability to cool itself, so it is best to limit consumption during hot and extreme temperatures.
9. Use Eye Drops
Even with following all of these tips to protect your eyes in summer, sometimes we need a bit of extra help. Eye drops usually are the first step in dry eye treatment. With plenty of brand options and many available over the counter, meaning you are able to purchase without a prescription, artificial tears are an accessible and easy way to treat dry eye symptoms.
Summer can be a particularly troublesome time if you have allergies, and you may benefit from eye drops. However, given there is a range of formulas, some of which may not be ideal for your lifestyle, we recommend discussing with your eye doctor if you have a chronic need for eye drops. There are a variety of treatments available.
10. Healthy Sleep Schedule
Your eyes are counting on you to get a good night’s rest. We know getting enough sleep is important, but what does a lack of sleep really do to your eyes?
Sleep is restorative for all parts of the body and is vital for cognition and immune function. Getting enough sleep helps keep you alert, fight off infection, and provides your eyes essential moisture and rest needed for them to be able to perform at their best.
Lack of sleep can cause eye strain, burst blood vessels, and dry eyes. After spending so many hours using your eyes during the day, it’s important to give them sufficient recovery time at night. If you don’t get enough sleep, your eyes can feel strained, dry and itchy the following day. This encourages you to rub your eyes to stimulate the lacrimal gland, which increases the likelihood of exposure to irritants and diseases. The best way you can keep yourself alert, safe, and comfortable is to try for a full night of sleep every night.
11. Reduce Eye Irritants Like Chemicals
It is not just people who work in high-risk environments that are exposed to chemicals, we interact with them on a daily basis, including;
- Using hand or body soap bubbles that pop near your eyes
- Spray paint that blows back into your face.
- Splashing cleaning solutions.
- Bug spray while camping or being outdoors.
- Lawn fertilizer, or pesticides used for gardening.
A simple trick is to wear safety or protective eyewear whenever you are working with any kind of toxic chemical. Take care when working with chemicals to avoid them splashing on your skin, hands, and near your eyes.