Most people look forward to the summer, to holidays and to spending time in the open air, but it can be a time when your eyes are most at risk. Whether it is damage from bright sunlight, sports injuries, accidents in the garden or unexpected incidents whilst on holiday, most hazards can be protected against if you use common sense and just follow a few basic rules.
You do not have to be on the beach to suffer damage to your eyes from UV rays. If you do not wear appropriate eye protection the cornea can suffer very painful flash burns from direct or reflected sunlight. Both UVA and UVB are damaging to the eyes both immediately and in the long term. Research suggests that UV rays, in addition to causing cataracts to form earlier, can be linked to macular degeneration in later life. Wearing good quality sunglasses that protect against ultraviolet rays can help to prevent damage when you are in bright sunlight outdoors. It is also important to protect children’s eyes from the damaging effects of the sun. If you do experience eye pain or blurred vision after being out in the sun you should seek medical advice.
Many jobs around the house and garden can present hazards to the eyes if proper eye protection is not worn. Mowing or using a strimmer in the garden can cause stones to fly up and possibly damage the eyes, but it is not only the person working who is at risk. Stones and grit can go to the side and hit other people nearby, particularly small children as they are closer to the ground. Do it yourself projects that involve hammering or sawing can also cause damage. If you are hit in the eye and your vision is not affected it can often be treated by applying ice to the affected eye.
Eye protection should be worn for many ball sports. Of course, large balls such as footballs and basketballs are unlikely to damage your eyes, but smaller balls such as those used in golf, cricket and hockey can cause eye injuries. Surprisingly in Malaysia, shuttlecocks cause many injuries because badminton is played by so many people. The increasing popularity of paintball can also cause injuries to the eyes if the game is not properly regulated and eye protection provided. There are appropriate shields or masks for various sports available from sports shops.
Damage can be caused to the eyes when chemicals in swimming pools are used inappropriately. If your eyes sting when in the pool you should get out immediately and rinse your eyes with fresh water. If the stinging continues you may need to see a doctor. When your eyes are irritated they can be soothed by instilling artificial tear drops.
Certain plants can also have an irritating effect when they come into contact with the eyes, so be careful to avoid anything you are not sure about. Insect bites near the eyes can also be very unpleasant so it may be a good idea to wear insect repellent, but be careful not to get it too near your eyes.
• Children often play with toys that can be dangerous to the eyes such as toy guns that fire pellets or darts. Bows and arrows are another hazard and children can make these themselves. Supervising children may prevent some accidents, but it can be very difficult to watch them all the time.
• Professional firework displays are usually quite safe, but many people are still injured by fireworks every year. Many of these injuries involve the eyes and about a third of them result in permanent eye damage.
• Cars can cause problems on hot summer days as well. If your radiator is boiling up, the steam can cause eye damage unless you take precautions. Battery acid is another hazard to watch out for if you have to jump start the car. Finally, take special care when strapping luggage to the car – bungee cords can snap back towards you at 50 mph.
The main thing to remember this summer is to protect your eyes against the sun and wear appropriate protection for whatever activity you are enjoying.