Summer is finally here—and that means many of your patients will be spending more time outside during the longer, warmer days ahead. Whether lounging on the beach, splashing in the pool, or making s'mores over a campfire, outdoor fun can be tough on the eyes. Be sure to pass along these simple tips for safeguarding eye health during the summer season.
1. Never leave home without a hat and sunglasses. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can cause damage to healthy eyes throughout the year, but they are significantly stronger in summer. Even on cloudy days, remember to wear a hat and sunglasses—preferably ones with protection against both UVA and UVB rays—to safeguard your eyes from the summer sun. This is especially important for kids too, since most of an average person's UV exposure from the sun occurs before the age of 18. Peak sun hours are typically between 10:00AM and 2:00PM each day.
2. Taking a dip? Don't forget your goggles. (But do forget your contact lenses.) Swimming is a popular summer activity, but it can be risky for healthy eyes. Whether in the pool or at the lake, always wear goggles if you need to see underwater. This will help to avoid irritation from chlorine as well as prevent exposure to harmful germs and contaminants found in natural water sources. And because chemicals and bacteria can get beneath contact lenses and cause infection, always leave them behind when swimming is on the itinerary.
3. Protective eyewear is a must for outdoor work and play. Long summer days and lots of sunlight mean more time outdoors to finish that DIY treehouse project for the kids, do a little landscaping, go mountain biking with friends, or play baseball at the local field. Just remember to wear protective eyewear such as high-durability sunglasses or safety goggles to keep your eyes safe from sawdust, dirt, debris, stray branches, balls, and other irritants and projectiles.
4. Don't ignore summer allergies. Ah, summer. When everything is bright and blooming and seasonal allergies ramp up to new and horrifying levels. If you notice your eyes are itchier, weepier, and generally more sensitive in the summer, don't ignore the symptoms. Instead, be proactive about taking your allergy medicine each day and keep those moisturizing drops handy for immediate relief when you need it. Avoid extended periods of time outdoors, and head inside periodically to give your eyes a break.
5. Wash your hands frequently. More time outdoors means increased exposure to germs and bacteria, which can make it easier for infections to spread—including conjunctivitis (pink eye). Frequent hand washing is one of the best (and easiest) ways to avoid contracting eye-related illnesses, so always take the time to properly wash your hands throughout the day, especially before and after putting in or removing contact lenses.
6. Keep eyes moisturized. Hot, dry air. Campfire smoke. Firecracker haze. Summer weather brings countless challenges that can leave your eyes feeling dry and irritated. Remember to hydrate both your body by drinking plenty of water and your eyes with lubricating drops to keep them feeling moisturized and refreshed.
Of course, it goes without saying that regular eye exams are an essential part of protecting and preserving healthy eyesight. An estimated 93 million adults in the United States are at high risk for serious vision loss, but only half have visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months. While yearly exams are important to help people see better as their eyesight changes, they are also a critical first step toward detecting serious eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.