The summer season is here and you might have questions about how to protect your eyes while doing all the fun activities outdoors in the sun.
Dr Angela Yoon, an Optometrist and Policy Consultant for the Ontario Association of Optometrists, answers common questions about proper eye protection like: can you swim with contacts, or what to do if you get sand in your eyes on your fun beach trip?
Here are her answers to some common questions eye doctors get asked in summer:
To find an optometrist near you, please visit FindAnEyeDoctor.ca
What are the best sunglasses for sun protection?
As we enjoy the summer weather and are spending quality time outdoors, how do we know our sunglasses are providing the best protection? It is all in a good label. All sunglasses should have labels that indicate their protection level. Look for sunglasses with labels that include 100 percent UVA- and UVB-absorbent protection, or UV 400.
Are you wondering what those numbers mean? As the sun shines, it emits three kinds of ultraviolet waves: UVA, UVB, and UVC. All of these waves have a length of 400 nanometers or smaller, but UVC is absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere.
Therefore, UVA and UVB are what you need to protect your eyes and skin from. A pair of sunglasses labeled UV 400 will absorb wavelengths up to 400 nanometers, which is the same as saying 100-percent UVA and UVB absorbent.
Your optometrist can help you select sunglasses that not only meet your needs but fit well and are good quality. If you need prescription lenses they can also help you get sunglasses to match your visual needs as well.
How do I know if my sunglasses have good UV protection?
Most sunglasses today have UV protection embedded in the lens rather than coatings over them and most reputable brands list UV protection on their label. Look for a label that says “100% protection against both UVA and UVB rays” or “100% protection against UV 400.”
Optometrists that also sell sunglasses will have a selection that they feel confident are safe, fit well and match your prescription.
What are polarized sunglasses?
Polarized lenses are designed to reduce the glare bouncing off reflective surfaces like water, roads, and snow. Many people enjoy polarized sunglasses because they provide a better visual experience for certain activities like driving, boating, or golfing.
Do I need polarized or UV protection sunglasses? Which is better: UV or polarized sunglasses?
Polarization itself does not provide UV protection. Instead, it provides a better visual experience for certain activities like driving, fishing, boating, or golfing. There are polarized lenses made with a UV-blocking substance – so you get the best of both!
Polarized lenses will not protect your eyes from UV damage more than standard 100% UV lenses. However, they can give you clearer, more accurate vision and alleviate some eye strain.
If you find yourself squinting a lot in high-glare situations, even when you’re wearing sunglasses, consider investing in polarized sunglasses that include protection from UV rays too.
With so many choices, your optometrist can help you select sunglasses that not only meet your needs but fit well. If you need prescription lenses they can also help you get sunglasses to meet your needs as well. Working with your optometrist you can be sure that you are investing in sunglasses that are right for you.
How do I know if my sunglasses have polarization?
Polarized sunglasses will have a few distinct characteristics that make them different from ordinary glasses. One easy way to check if they’re polarized is to tilt your head to the left and right while looking at an LCD screen.
What do I do if I get sand in my eyes?
Sand at the beach gets everywhere and can sometimes stick to your hands. Touching and rubbing your eyes with sand will sting and cause painful irritation for hours afterward.
Keep some wet naps handy when heading to the beach, and rinse off the sand from your hands frequently.
If some sand does get in your eyes – DO NOT rub them! Blink several times and allow tears to flush out the particle. If this does not work, use eyewash, saline solution, or artificial tears to flush your eyes out.
If you are still having trouble, contact your optometrist. They have specialized equipment to look for any damage to the eye. They can also provide treatment to get any remaining debris out of your eyes and prescribe eyedrops that will soothe and heal your eyes if needed.
Is it safe to swim with contact lenses on?
In the hot, hazy days of summer, it is great to cool down with a dip in the pool or jumping in the lake. If you wear contact lenses, this might mean you have to pause before you jump in the pool or lake to take care of your contacts.
The reason is that exposure to non-sterile water isn’t advisable for contact lenses. Swimming while wearing your contacts can be particularly dangerous due to prolonged exposure. The lenses can absorb the water, even in swimming pools, trapping potential bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens against your eye’s surface.
If you swim often, consider a pair of prescription swim goggles. If you must wear contacts while swimming, wear tight-fitting goggles to keep water away from your eyes.
At your next appointment with your optometrist, ask for options that will work the best for you.
What kind of safety glasses are best for working around the home?
The summer months are a great time to get things done around your home like cutting the grass, doing work in your garden, maybe completing a DIY project with power tools or even working on your car. These are great activities to enjoy but it also means an increase in risk of serious eye injury from hazards such as chemicals or flying debris.
Eye hazards are also common during a home improvement project or at your job when operating power equipment. Simply wearing protective eyewear (with side shields) approved by the Canadian Safety Association (CSA) can mean the difference between a trauma averted or a life marred with vision problems. It is worth the extra moment to slide a pair on before you start your work!
And if you plan to be in situations where you could increase your risk for injury such as high-contact sports or activities where your face could get hit or bumped, proper protection is a must. You can choose impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses especially made for extra protection.
Is it ok to put sunscreen around the eyes?
Putting on sunscreen is a great idea in summer to protect your skin and prevent many types of skin cancers. Similar to other face creams or lotions, ensure that any sunscreen on your face is not too close to the lid margins, where it can migrate to your eye’s surface, causing irritation.
If sunscreen does get in your eyes, it may cause temporary burning, watery eyes, redness, and tearing, but will not cause permanent damage to your eyes. If this happens, use artificial tears to keep your eyes moist and soothe them while they recover.
Do sunglasses protect the skin around your eyes?
The answer is yes if you get sunglasses with full UV protection. The sun emits three kinds of ultraviolet waves: UVA, UVB, and UVC. All of these waves have a length of 400 nanometers or smaller, but UVC is absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere, so UVA and UVB are what you need to protect yourself from (both skin and eyes).
A pair of sunglasses labeled UV 400 will absorb wavelengths up to 400 nanometers, which is the same as saying 100-percent UVA and UVB absorbent. To protect the skin around your eyes, make sure your UV sunglasses are large enough to cover the area around your eyes. Outside that area, you will want to use sunblock, being careful not to get it in your eyes when you apply it!
As the sunlight shines brightly during these summer months, it’s crucial to keep our eyes healthy and safe by spending time outdoors – with the right precautions. Following these tips for summer eye safety can help us make the most of our outdoor activities without compromising our eye health: wear sunglasses to protect us from harmful UV light, wear eye protection when working on projects around the home, apply sunblock around the eyes and make sure you limit using contact lenses while having fun in the water – even swimming pools.
Let’s embrace the joys of a healthy summer, armed with the knowledge to keep our eyes safe and healthy!