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Published on August 06, 2015

Protect Your Eyes from More than the Sun

Between the beautiful weather and the long, sunny days, it’s easy to get caught up in summertime fun. Whether playing catch in the  backyard, splashing in a pool or pruning your summer garden, most of us revel in the season that allows us to spend hours outdoors.

Despite many opportunities for fun in the sun, this season does pose some risks to your health, specifically your eye health. You already know you need to protect your skin during the summer, But you also need to protect your eyes.

“The most common hazards for eye health are related to outdoor activities when the weather gets warmer and everyone is outside,” said Dr. Avraham Cohen, an ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist on staff at Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health.

Whether you perceive yard work as a chore or a hobby, you still need to protect your eyes.

“While mowing your lawn or doing garden work, leaves and debris can fly up into a person’s eyes,” Dr. Cohen said.

If this happens, you can get a foreign body in your eyes.

“The first remedy is to flush the eye out with water or sterile eye wash. And then, if it persists after that, call your doctor. But one way to avoid that problem is to wear safety glasses,” he said.

Make sure you’re wearing protective safety glasses if you’re weed whacking, mowing the lawn, chopping wood, hammering nails, dealing with sawdust or any other outdoor work that could cause debris to fly around.

Sunglasses or regular glasses do offer some protection for your eyes during these chores, but safety glasses available at hardware stores provide a barrier and a higher level of protection.

“The more they cover the better,” Dr. Cohen said of safety glasses. "The ones that wrap around your temple area and hug the eye with a cushion are the best. If you see ‘ANSI Z87’ on the packaging that means you're getting glasses certified for safety.”

You also need to protect your eyes when you’re outside washing or working on your car.

“Chemicals splash and sometimes I see patients who get battery acid in their eyes. It's also important to protect your eyes while using outdoor chemicals, including weed killers and insecticides, especially those applied as sprays,” Dr. Cohen said.

If this happens, it’s crucial to flush your eye out before you do anything else. If you’re outside near a hose, use that to flush out your eye, or if you can get inside quickly, use a sink or shower.

“A lot of people, when they have an eye injury, they tend to have their hand over their closed eye. But every minute that goes by, the chemical is actually penetrating deeper into the eye and causing more damage,” he said. “Just open your eye and let the water flush the eye out. Do that for 15 minutes and then call your eye care provider or go to the nearest emergency room.”

It’s not just summer outdoor chores that can put your eyes at risk. One of the biggest warm-weather hazards to eyes is outdoor sports.

“Everyone is outside playing sports this season. If a baseball hits the face or eye or if you’re running into home plate and slide in, you can suffer a corneal abrasion,” Dr. Cohen explained.

And simply spending time outside in the sun can have an effect on your eyes. Protect them by wearing a hat and sunglasses, Dr. Cohen advised.

“Five to 10 percent of skin cancers occur on the skin around the eyelids – a hat is very helpful for protecting that area,” he said. And sunglasses protect eyes from unnecessary exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

“UV exposure can –over time – cause eye diseases, such as cataracts as well as macular degeneration and growths,” Dr. Cohen said. Look for sunglasses that protect your eyes from both UVB and UVA rays.

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