Surviving Summer Wildfire Smog and Dry Eyes
Our optometrists are here to help you battle summer smog and dry eyes!
As summer heats up in British Columbia, the unfortunate reality of climate change brings with it an increasing number of wildfires. While the immediate dangers of these fires are evident, the long-lasting impact they have on air quality is a growing concern, especially for your eye health.
The Relationship Between Dry Eyes and Smog resulting from wildfires is a mixture of particulate matter and gases, including irritants that can wreak havoc on your eyes. While the impact may be felt immediately for some, it’s essential to understand that the consequences are not merely short-term. Ongoing exposure to smog has been linked to chronic dry eye syndrome, which can become difficult to manage.
7 Tips to Cope with Smog and Dry Eyes
Surviving Smog and Dry Eyes: 1. Use Artificial Tears
Over-the-counter artificial tears like I-DROP Pur can provide immediate relief for dry eyes. Make sure you choose preservative-free options, and consult your optometrist for personalized recommendations.
Surviving Smog and Dry Eyes: 2. Invest in a High-Quality Air Purifier
Invest in a High-Quality Air Purifier If you live in an area frequently affected by wildfires. Make sure to opt for one with a HEPA filter to effectively eliminate small particles and allergens from the air.
Surviving Smog and Dry Eyes: 3. Keep Windows and Doors Closed
Keep your living space as smog-free as possible by keeping windows and doors closed. Make sure to re-circulate air in your car rather than drawing it from outside.
Surviving Smog and Dry Eyes: 4. Stay Hydrated
Dry eyes can be exacerbated by dehydration. Make sure to drink plenty of water, particularly during wildfire season, to keep your body and eyes hydrated.
Surviving Smog and Dry Eyes: 5. Take Screen Breaks
The 20-20-20 rule (looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes) is essential, especially when indoor activities increase due to poor air quality. This practice can reduce eye strain and dryness.
Surviving Smog and Dry Eyes: 6. Use a Humidifier
Adding moisture to the air in your home can relieve symptoms of dry eyes. However, keep the humidity levels between 30-50% to prevent mold growth.
Surviving Smog and Dry Eyes: 7. Consult Your Optometrist about Radio Frequency Treatment.
Managing smog-induced dry eyes can be tricky. Your optometrist can provide customized treatment options and may recommend prescription eye drops or radio frequency treatment for your dry eyes.
Are There Long-Term Effects of Wildfire Smoke to My Vision?
Unfortunately as wildfires spread and smoke becomes apart of our summers, we are forced to explore the enduring impact of smog from wildfires on the health of your eyes, particularly focusing on dry eyes. The smoke and particulates generated by wildfires can aggravate existing symptoms of dry eyes and may even initiate new symptoms. Importantly, the discomfort isn’t just momentary; ongoing exposure to wildfire smog has the potential to evolve into chronic dry eye syndrome, where the eyes become more prone to irritation over time, making treatment more challenging and urgent.
For those residing in areas frequently affected by wildfires, preventative solutions like specialized eye lubricants, indoor humidifiers, and high-grade air purifiers are more than just optional—they’re essential. Being aware of the long-term relationship between smog and dry eyes is crucial for effective eye care, especially during wildfire season.
Monitoring Air Quality Index (AQI) for Safe Outdoor Activities
Before you decide to engage in any outdoor activities, especially sports in British Columbia, it’s crucial to check the Air Quality Index (AQI) in your area. The AQI measures the level of pollutants in the air, providing a comprehensive view of air safety on a scale from 0 to 500. Generally, a lower AQI indicates better air quality. Many weather apps and websites offer real-time AQI updates. You can also visit government environmental websites for accurate information.
Recommendations for Playing Sports Outside
When the AQI is below 50, the air quality is considered “Good,” and it’s generally safe for all outdoor sports activities. If the AQI ranges between 51-100, which is “Moderate,” people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution should consider limiting outdoor exertion.
However, once the AQI climbs above 100, it’s time to start taking precautions. An AQI between 101-150 is “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,” which means children, elderly people, and those with respiratory or heart conditions should minimize outdoor activities. When the AQI surpasses 150, entering “Unhealthy” to “Very Unhealthy” ranges (151-250), everyone, regardless of their health status, should limit outdoor exertion. If it’s within the “Hazardous” range (251-500), outdoor activities should be avoided altogether for the sake of health and well-being.
By monitoring the AQI and adhering to these guidelines, you can make informed decisions on whether or not to engage in outdoor sports, balancing the need for physical activity with the need to protect your health—especially the health of your eyes, which can be seriously affected by smog and dry eyes.
Adding this crucial step to your routine will not only protect your respiratory health but also mitigate the risks of experiencing smog-related dry eyes. Make it a habit to check the AQI regularly, and adjust your outdoor activities accordingly to protect your overall health and well-being.