Can the Summer Heat Harm Your Eyes?
Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash
The scorching summer sun can take a toll on the entire body, yet it’s often our eyes that feel the effects the most.
Increased heat and a high-level of allergens in the air make your eyes more vulnerable to contracting summer-related eye ailments and allergies. While conjunctivitis is the most prevalent problem, dry eye, stye and those pesky eye allergies are a few other obstacles that our peepers may have to tackle throughout the summer.
So, what are the tell-tale signs of an eye infection? And what can you do to prevent recurring symptoms?
Extreme heat can increase the risk of dehydration as the body works to preserve the amount of bodily fluids. And when your body is not adequately hydrated, your eyes can suffer. In hot and dry environments, your natural tears evaporate more quickly, leaving the eyes dry and sore – a condition commonly known as dry eye syndrome. The good news is, the condition is easily treated using lubricating eye drops. Other tips for preventing dry eye include drinking plenty of water throughout the day and avoiding foods that are high in salt content.
Eye allergies can occur at any time of year, however they are especially common during the spring and summer months when flora is in full bloom. When airborne allergens like pollen, mold, dander and dust, come into contact with the eye, a substance called histamine is released which causes uncomfortable symptoms, such as red, itchy and watery eyes. Naturally, allergy sufferers rub their eyes in an attempt to relieve their symptoms, only to irritate the eye even more.
If eye allergy symptoms are mild, over-the-counter eye drops are usually effective. However, those who suffer from severe allergies may need to visit a doctor to be prescribed stronger medication.
Commonly known as Pink Eye, Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva – the thin membrane that covers the front of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. Conjunctivitis shares similar symptoms to dry eye, including pain, itchiness, redness and watery eyes, making it difficult to differentiate between the two conditions. What’s more, dry eye can be a side effect of conjunctivitis. It’s usually triggered by a bacterial infection or virus and is highly contagious. Common types of conjunctivitis include:
Viral Conjunctivitis – caused by an airborne virus, this form of conjunctivitis is highly contagious, but will usually clear up on its own without treatment.
Bacterial Conjunctivitis – caused by bacteria entering the surface of the eye, this type of conjunctivitis requires immediate treatment, usually in the form of antibiotic eye drops or ointments.
Allergic Conjunctivitis – caused by allergens including pollen, animal dander and dust mites, allergic conjunctivitis may flare up in specific seasons throughout the year.
In most cases, conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotic eye drops and ointments prescribed by a doctor, though if not treated it can progress to a severe and sight-threatening infection.
On diagnosis, one should maintain good hygiene and thoroughly wash their hands after touching or treating infected eyes. You can reduce the risk of contracting conjunctivitis by avoiding sharing towels and pillows with anyone during the summer months. If you’re a contact lens wearer, it’s wise to swap your contacts for specs until the eye has been treated.
Styes are another common eye condition that are caused by inflammation or infection to the eye. In the summer, foreign particles can creep into the tear film and cause the glands that sit around the eyelid to become blocked and swollen. Red lumps can form along the edge of the eyelid, close the lashes.
Although styes are not normally serious, they can be irritating and painful. If you develop a stye, it’s important to maintain proper hygiene to reduce symptoms and prevent reoccurance. Wash your hands regularly, use a warm compress on the affected area and avoid using makeup until the eye has healed. If you’re a contact lens wearer, you’ll need to be extra diligent. Most styes can be treated at home in a few days, but if symptoms persist, visit a doctor.
How to Keep Your Eyes Infection-Free This Summer
There are few simple acts of self-care that you can follow to keep your eyes infection-free this summer:
Wear sunglasses to shield your eyes from the sun, pollen and other summer elements.
Beat the heat by staying hydrated.
Wear goggles when swimming. If you’re a contact lens wearer, be sure to remove your lenses before taking a dip.
Avoid sharing pillows, towels, or anything else that your eyes might come into contact with.
Bare your beautiful face. If you suffer from eye allergies, avoid wearing makeup around the edge of your eyes.
Practice good personal hygiene by washing your hands regularly with soap and water.
If you’re a contact lens wearer, consider switch to daily disposables during the summer months to avoid the buildup of allergens on your lenses.
Avoid self-treatment. If any of these symptoms become severe, be sure to seek medical advice.