As we head into the dog days of summer, it’s important when you’re preparing for trips to the beach, pool, or park that you keep eye care in mind. Always bear in mind that the summer sun can cause damage to your eyes.

The most obvious thing you can do to protect your eye health during the summer is to use sunglasses. Your eyes are affected by ultraviolet radiation just as your skin is. So just as you put on sunscreen to make sure you don’t turn as red as a lobster from being out in the sun, you should have sunglasses to protect your eyes from the same level of damage. Many inexpensive brands of sunglasses can provide the full 100% protection that you need from UVA and UVB rays.

The reason UVA and UVB are so dangerous is that photokeratitis or photo conjunctivitis could be caused by unprotected exposure. Over the long term, you could develop cataracts, growth over your cornea, or even skin cancer on your eyelid.

Along with sunglasses, it’s a good idea to wear a hat when you’re going to be outside for any length of time. Even the best, most expensive sunglasses don’t provide 100% coverage of your eye and eyelids. If you wear a hat with at least a three-inch-wide brim, you can significantly decrease your UV exposure.

The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that basal cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer that can strike the eyelids. While most commonly it affects the lower eyelid, since that is the most unprotected area when someone does not wear sunglasses or hats, it can also affect the corners of the eye or the area just under the eyebrow. The cancer can spread into the eye itself if it’s not caught early.

If you plan on going swimming, wear goggles. The chlorine in backyard and neighborhood pools is designed to protect you from germs, not protect your eye from damage. A 2008 study by Ryogoku Eye Clinic of Tokyo reported that chlorine is damaging to the corneal epithelium. The epithelium is the layer that protects your eye from irritants or anything that could cause an infection.

This means that your eye can quickly become compromised if you’re swimming in a chlorinated pool without goggles.

It’s also important to wear goggles if you’re swimming in rivers, creeks, or ponds, because those bodies of water contain microbes that could be harmful to the eye. You run the risk of infection simply by your eye coming into contact with untreated pond water.

If you’re engaging in outdoor activities, you might want to seriously consider eye protection during those activities. If you’ve ever had dust or sand in your eye, you know what kind of irritant they can be. When you’re engaging in activities that involve stirring up a large amount of sand or dirt, you run the risk of small rock particles or other potentially damaging matter entering the eye. While most corneal injuries heal in a day or two without too much pain, the possibility of a small rock or other item being projected at your eye at high speed is too real to risk not wearing eye protection.

One other great way to protect your eyes is to stay hydrated. When your body is dehydrated, that includes your eyes. It’s harder for your body to produce tears to lubricate the eye when you’re dehydrated. So make sure to drink plenty of water not only for your eye but your entire body.

EyeCare 20/20 hopes you keep these tips in mind to have a fun and safe summer!

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