Flying grit from off-roading or yard work, chemicals in pools, a sun that sears delicate tissues — summer is an obstacle course for your precious eyes. You can still have fun, but you may need to take some steps to protect your peepers.
A lot of this is common sense, which, sadly, is not always so common.
Take it from an emergency room doctor. Eyewise, he has seen it all. Here are some top recommendations from several experts.
1. Wear Sun Protection
"A lot of people come to the ER with burned corneas each summer," Richard O'Brien, M.D., an emergency physician with the Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton, Pa., tells WebMD.
"We have a lot of NASCAR up here. You'd be amazed how many people go to that, a concert, or other all-day event without wearing a visor cap and sunglasses. They even lie on their shiny RVs — that is like being in a tanning booth.
"They are fine at first, then go home, go to sleep, and wake up in an hour in excruciating pain. I have had people come in here crying."
The sun, of course, shoots out rays of different lengths. The most damaging are the ultraviolet rays, which are classified as UVA and UVB.
"Most decent sunglasses," Richard Bensinger, M.D., an ophthalmologist in private practice in Seattle, tells WebMD, "protect against UVB. If they also protect against UVA, it should say so on them."
Sunglasses may be one thing you don't want to get at the Dollar Store, O'Brien observes. They should be close to the face or wraparound. Some people like dark tints, but the UV-blocking coating is the same on any color. Polarized lenses may be more comfortable for workers outside because they block glare.
Too much ultraviolet can accelerate the formation of cataracts, Bensinger adds. "There are very solid studies that show this; people who stayed in the sun tended to get cataracts eight to 10 years before a carefully selected group that was mostly in the shade or indoors."
The hat-sunglasses combo should also be worn at the beach, amusement parks, bike rides, boating, or anyplace where there is prolonged sun exposure, O'Brien cautions.
And don't forget the little ones — they need the same.
2. Wear Serious Eye Protection While Doing Home Projects
How often do you see Dad weed-whacking or mowing and little Junior playing nearby? Both should be wearing eye protection. "Dad is behind the mower and high up," explains Bensinger. "A flying rock could hit him but more likely will go sideways and hit someone lower to the ground nearby."
By eye protection, this does not mean reading glasses or sunglasses, O'Brien emphasizes. "This means professional quality goggles from a home supply store. I have seen corneal lacerations come into the ER from yard work. We're talking surgery to fix these."
"Chopping wood, hammering nails, sawdust, anything that can fly around," Bensinger advises people to "wear protection."
What if you do take a hit in the eye? "The first determinant is vision, pain is secondary," Bensinger says. "If your vision is not affected, put some ice on it (unless it's a penetrating injury like a BB)."
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