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5 Ways to Protect Your Eyes in Summer

Hazards to your eyes are lurking around every corner, but WebMD has 5 essential ways to protect yourself against eye injury.

4. Avoid or Protect Against Chemicals

You can jump in a pool and if your eyes sting, it may mean the chemicals aren't balanced. "This is more of a comfort issue," Bensinger says. "Rarely will it affect your vision."

O'Brien goes farther. "If it hurts, get out!" he cries. "I don't care how much you paid, there is no vacation worth messing with your eyes." Rinse immediately with clean water, even if you have to buy a bottle. "Then," he adds, "do not go back in." If the stinging persists for hours, you should get a doctor to take a look.

To soothe irritated eyes, use artificial tears, not anti-redness drops.

O'Brien also warns against poison ivy, oak, and sumac. It's very bad when that gets into eyes. "You have a few moments to wash it off," he says. He also tells a story of how the irritating oil in these poison plants can stay on clothes for years. "I used to have firefighters come in with poison ivy," he recalls. "One day, one would have it, later a different one. Turns out, one of their turnout coats had been contaminated with poison ivy, and different ones were grabbing it."

O'Brien also warns against insect bites around the eye. "These are nasty," he says. "You don't want to put repellent in your eye, though."

Bensinger also says you don't want to wear your contacts in the pool. "The surface tension holding them in will be washed away by water," he says, "They find a lot of contacts in pool drains."

Infection can also get started from untreated lake or pond water getting under the lens. "Likely that would wash out if you had no contact in there," Bensinger says.

5. Protect Against Oddball Events

If you think summer is one big eye accident waiting to happen, you might be right. Consider these other threats:

  • Pellet or dart guns. Yes, kids still get these and wield them. They should have protective eyewear. Actually, O'Brien notes, kids are less supervised in summer and may get into older kids' toys. Another tricky game? Archery.
  • Fireworks. Even professionals make mistakes with these, but leave it to them, anyway, O'Brien says. No matter how often this warning goes out, 8,500 people get hurt by fireworks each year in the U.S. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2,000 of these are eye injuries with one-third of the eye injuries resulting in permanent eye damage.
  • Injury to LASIKed eyes. Postsurgery patients need to be extra careful in general.
  • Snapping bungee cords from tying down luggage. These can lash out at 50 mph!
  • Battery acid from improperly jumped auto batteries. Keep goggles in the trunk. Steam from spewing radiators could also injure eyes.

"What's the best thing you can do for your eyes in summer?" Bensinger jokes. "Take them with you to Hawaii."

Just don't forget those shades, activity-appropriate eyewear, and that common sense.

Reviewed on July 02, 2007

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