Summer fun and summer chores are in full swing – school is out, vacations are planned, weekend events are on your calendar, and yard work is a weekly activity!

Summer poses a number of threats to eye health and vision. You may have noticed itchy, red, or irritated eyes from summer allergens or maybe burning, red or gritty eyes from chlorinated pools or ocean water? Plus, fans and air conditioning can contribute to dry eyes.

To avoid the uncomfortable “summertime threats” to your eyes, remember these 8 tips to help you navigate summer with your healthy, comfortable vision:

  1. Shield Your Eyes

You know that the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin, but did you know those same rays can also negatively affect your eyes? According to the World Health Organization, UV exposure is responsible for up to 20% of cataracts worldwide. UV rays can increase your risk for macular degeneration, cause photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye), and even increase your risk for skin cancer surrounding the eye. Bottom line? Wear 100% UV-blocking sunglasses that block UVA, UVB and UVC ultraviolet rays – the entire alphabet of UV rays! Buy properly fitted sunglasses with a design and shape to cover a larger area of your face to maximize effectiveness. And don’t forget your hat! A hat with a 3-inch brim can block up to half of UVB rays that typically damage eyes and eyelids.

  1. Protect Your Eyes in the Water

When swimming, water skiing, or enjoying your favorite water park, wear protective water goggles. Always remove contact lenses to prevent infections from bacteria and microorganisms that inhabit the pool, lake or river. If you simply cannot go without your corrective lenses, we recommended prescription goggles.

  1. Apply Sunscreen Carefully

We’ve all had the unpleasant experience of a wayward spray of sunscreen or insect repellent in or around the eyes. Ouch! Try mineral-based sunscreens that are less likely to run into your eyes. When you apply spray sunscreen on a child, have them cup their hands over their eyes. And if you use a lotion-type sunscreen, be very careful in applying it delicately around the eyes but not too close to your eyes – let your sunglasses and hat do the work of protecting your eyes and eyelids. If sunscreen gets into your eyes, simply flush with fresh water. If you wear contact lenses, remove them and then flush with water.

  1. Protect Your Eyes When Working Outside

Yard work and DIY projects increase during the summer months — and so do eye injuries! Wearing wrap-around protective eyewear or goggles can reduce your risk of eye injury by 90%! Before starting yard work, clear overhanging or fallen limbs, sticks, pinecones or other loose debris. And, check for loose gravel, sand, or anything else that could become a projectile and injure the eye.

  1. Moisturize Your Eyes

Summer heat and irritated eyes often go together. You can experience a condition called dry eye due to heat, wind, fans or even when the air conditioning vents in your car point directly at your face. When the tear film that keeps your eyes moist evaporates, the surface of the eye can feel gritty, itchy and uncomfortable. If you have allergies or wear contact lenses, your likelihood of getting dry eye is higher, so use artificial tears to bring relief to your eyes. We’ll gladly recommend the type of drops best suited for your lifestyle and needs during your next comprehensive eye exam.

  1. Eat Your Veggies and Hydrate

It’s easier to eat healthily in the summer months with the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables available. The red, green, yellow, and orange produce is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy nutrients for your eyes.

And … hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to take a sip — thirst indicates that dehydration is already occurring. Lack of moisture in the eye can cause eyestrain, which can result in blurry vision and headaches, which nobody wants when there’s summer fun to be had!

  1. Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes

It’s hard to resist itching your eyes with summer allergens in full swing. It’s a natural reflex to rub itchy eyes, but rubbing releases histamines that can cause more inflammation and more itching and then more inflammation. It’s a vicious cycle! And if your hands aren’t clean, there is the possibility of introducing bacteria into the eye, which can lead to conjunctivitis, styes, or infection. If allergies are getting you down, ask us to recommend allergy eye drops or artificial tears to help bring relief to your itchy eyes.

  1. Get Quality Sleep

Researchers have found that lack of quality sleep and dry eye disease go hand-in-hand. You may have experienced itchy, red, dry eyes the morning after a poor night’s sleep. You’re more likely to rub your eyes when tired, and there is a greater risk for other eye problems as well — like that irritating eye twitching, bloodshot eyes, and under-eye puffiness. So, get into a consistent sleep routine, every single night if possible. Make your bedroom dark, quiet, and technology-free! Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time seven days a week. And remember — no caffeine at least eight hours before bedtime.

And the best advice of all? Schedule your regular eye exam to keep your eyes healthy – don’t skip an exam even during busy summer months. It’s important for your optometrist to monitor your eyes for vision changes and identify any problems early, when treatment is most effective.

Summer fun is on the calendar, so put on your sunglasses and keep those beautiful eyes in tip-top summer shape!