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Ah, summertime. From pool days to vacations (and all the summer sunshine), we can’t help but get excited for all the warm-weather activities to come. But as the temperatures rise and beach vacations get planned, there’s a few things to keep in mind when it comes to eye health and protection.
Read on to learn how to keep your eyes safe this summer — from sun protection to water protection to everything in between.
Protecting your eyes in the sun
1. Choose your sunglasses carefully. (And always wear them outside.)
Not all sunglasses are created equal. And just because they sport dark lenses, doesn’t mean your eyes are protected from the sun’s rays. While you’re out shopping for a new pair of sunglasses, make sure to get a pair that blocks at least 98% of ultraviolet radiation, and that they block both UV-A and UV-B rays. Polarized lenses are great for reducing glare (making them great for those that spend a lot of time by the water!), but any UV protective lens will be just as good, as polarized lenses can come with a bigger price tag.
When searching for that perfect pair, choosing a wraparound style can give you better protection, as they cover your peripheral vision. And if you’re the sporty type (beach volleyball, anyone?), a shatter-proof polycarbonate lens will greatly reduce your risk for injury.
Oh, and always, always, always wear your sunglasses when outside. Even if it’s overcast — and especially during the hours of 10am to 2pm.
2. Wear a hat at all times when outside.
To protect your eyes and face (and for a little flair), wear a hat with at least a three-inch brim and a tightly woven fabric to stay covered. Hats can block UV rays from your eyes and often-forgotten eyelids when the sun is at its brightest.
3. Avoid indoor tanning.
Even closing your eyes during a tanning session isn’t enough to protect yourself from those strong UV rays. In fact, tanning beds can actually speed up conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts considerably, because you’re exposed to 100 times the amount of UV light of a sunny day. If you choose to indoor tan, make sure to wear protective goggles.
4. Consider prescription sunglasses.
If you’re one of the 164 million American adults that wear glasses, it can be tough to protect your eyes from the sun — and see clearly. (Especially if you don’t wear contacts!)
Tip: if you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can use your pre-tax dollars towards your pair!
Protecting your eyes in the water
5. Always wear swim goggles.
Opening your eyes underwater — no matter if it’s a chlorinated pool, lake, or ocean, puts you at risk for infection. (Sometimes severe enough to cause a partial loss of vision.) The easiest way to make sure your eyes are protected from chlorine, salt water, sand, dirt, and other contaminants is to wear goggles when you are in the water.
If you don’t have goggles, keep your eyes closed tight while you’re in the water. After your pool day, rinse with a saline solution to keep your eyes as clean as possible.
6. Leave your contact lenses at home.
If you wear contact lenses, you are even more susceptible to infection and irritation. Bacteria can become trapped under your contacts and — after a long day at the beach — can promote infection. (Talk about a bummer if you’re on vacation!)
Other summertime eye safety tips
7. Use caution during all your summertime projects.
From cutting the grass to working on your car, gardening or woodworking, more daylight means more time to tackle those around-the-house projects you’ve been putting off. But it also means an increase in risk for eye injury. Remember to wear protective eyewear (like glasses, goggles, or a face shield) for optimal optical protection. (Tip: look for “ANSI Z87.1” on the lenses or frames. This means it has met the American National Standards Institute’s standard for safe and protective eyewear.)
8. Limit time around an air conditioner.
We know what you’re thinking — but hear us out. Too much time around an air conditioner (think: long summer road trips with the air blasting on your face) can dry your eyes out. Consider pointing AC vents away from your face from time to time and using eye drops to keep your eyes hydrated. And blink more to keep your eyes moist!
9. Visit the eye doctor once per year.
An annual visit to your ophthalmologist can not only help you get your summer eye safety questions answered, but it’s a surefire way to make sure you don’t have any damage or infections from having fun in the sun, too. Plus, with vision insurance, your annual visit could be as low as $15 (depending on your plan). The best part? You can enroll in vision insurance at any point in the calendar year. Compare low-cost vision plans here, and find out if vision insurance is right for you here.
Now that you’ve got the basics of summer eye safety down, go on — jump in that pool, catch some rays, and enjoy the slowdown of summertime. Just don’t forget your sunglasses at home!