When it comes to your eyes, you don’t always necessarily see the problems that can occur when your family’s at-play outdoors or swimming in the local pool. The sun, which provides Vitamin D, has risks, not only to your skin, but also to your eyes. Here are some safe ways to protect your vision in this weather.
Put On Some Shades
Sunglasses are the best way to protect your eyes from the sun’s most damaging rays. However, not all sunglasses offer the same protection.
Dr. Rishi Singh, an ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic’s Cole Eye Institute, suggests starting with the lenses when it comes to purchasing sunglasses.
Children as young as 6 months old should be wearing sunglasses, he adds. The Vision Council of America reminds us that the damage from UVA and UVB radiation is cumulative over a person’s lifetime, so it’s a good idea to teach your children the importance of wearing sunglasses. Over-exposure to the sun’s rays can cause the formation of several eye diseases.
“One of the problems with too much sun exposure is you can develop cataracts over time, so you want to make sure you have those glasses on to prevent the progression of both cataracts and possibly other conditions like macular degeneration,” Singh says.
If you’re in the sun and your eyes begin to tear or squint, that’s their way of creating a defense against ultraviolet rays, he says. You may even speed up the aging process of the eye with excessive sun exposure.
“The best way to (protect your eyes) is to buy sunglasses that (have) UVA- and UVB-blocking sunglass,” Singh says, “from a reputable manufacturer.”
“People become more photophobic, or light-sensitive sometimes because they’re out in the sun for long periods, so it would be worthwhile to have them wear (sun)glasses whenever possible,” he says.
This includes having the kids wear sunglasses consistently, too. You may even want to consider tinted sports goggles for your children when they’re outside playing sports.
Pool Water and Your Eyes
A long day swimming at the pool can be hard on your eyes, and Singh says an over-chlorinated pool can put your eyes at risk.
“They put a lot of chemicals (in pools) and people can develop what is called chemical conjunctivitis,” he says.
Chemical conjunctivitis is characterized by blurriness, redness and sometimes pain, but can usually be treated by flushing your eyes with cool, fresh water.
Saline drops are also a simple fix for sore eyes after a long day of swimming.
If you wear contact lenses, Singh suggests never swimming with them in.
“You don’t want to wear your contact lenses while swimming because bugs and bacteria can basically sit below the contact lens and cause an infection,” he says.
The chlorine’s pH level can also be the source of eye irritation. The best way to decrease the chance of irritating your eyes while swimming is to throw on a pair of goggles, he says.
Don’t Forget Eye Exams
With kids heading back to school next month, this is also a great time to get your child’s eyes checked. Their eyes are growing and developing, just like the rest of their body, and problems could develop along the way. Singh says eye exams aren’t necessary at the beginning of every school year, but you should have regular check-ups.
“Check your child’s vision before the age of 2, and then check it around the age of 5 again,” he says. After that, examinations every three or four years are appropriate.
A typical eye exam includes reading an eye chart, looking at how your child’s eyes move, checking near and distance vision, and examining the front and back of the eye to ensure normal development.
Teachers are often the first to recognize vision issues that a child might have. Singh suggests that parents and teachers pay attention to the more subtle signs too.
“It could be something like not being able to see the chalkboard, just doing poorly in school and not paying attention in school necessarily,” he explains. Sometimes children (will) change their position or their desk position to move up in the classroom in order to see better.”