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6 Factors That Can Irritate Your Eyes This Summer

There are many elements that can contribute to irritated eyes in the summer. Since we tend to spend more time outdoors, our eyes may be exposed to additional factors that may cause more discomfort to our eyes than usual. Given that dry, burning, red eyes can be a real nuisance, here is a list of causes and how to manage their effects on your eyes.

Allergies
The beginning of the summer can be difficult for people who suffer from allergies like hay fever.  Itchy, sore, red and watery eyes as well as swollen eyelids are some of the symptoms that can affect your eyes. Since airborne pollen is unavoidable and that hay fever is uncurable, here are some tips on how to manage and provide relief to your eyes:
- Speak with your pharmacist on the best over-the-counter medications like antihistamine or eye drops to reduce the symptoms of the allergies.
- Cold compresses on your eyes may help reduce the swelling and temporarily relieve the itchiness.
- Wear large wraparound sunglasses when outdoors, these may help avoid pollen from getting into your eyes.
- After spending time outdoors, shower, wash your hair and change your clothes, to remove any pollen that may have gotten attached to you.
- Weather forecasting sites provide pollen levels. On days when the count is high try to minimize your outdoor activities.

Foreign Object
One of the most common foreign objects that may cause our eyes irritation in the summer, is sand. When the weather is hot, we tend to flock to the beach. On windy days, when the sand gets kicked up by a gust of wind, grains may fly into your eyes. This can cause discomfort and can also scratch your cornea. If your time frolicking in the water is interrupted by sand in your eye, do not rub it or try to remove the sand with your fingers. Instead, rinse your eye thoroughly with spring water. If the pain persists, see your optometrist as soon as possible.

Eye Sunburn
Like our skin, our eyes can get sunburned when exposed to the sun for a long period of time. Although the symptoms are not usually permanent, they can be very uncomfortable for about 24 to 48 hours. Symptoms may include a dry, gritty feeling, a burning sensation, watery eyes, blurred vision, sensitivity to light and many others. The best way to avoid an eye sunburn is to wear UV protected sunglasses. A good quality pair of sunglasses shield your eyes and the sensitive skin around your eyes from the damaging rays. Overexposure to the sun’s rays can have long-term consequences on your eyes like the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

If the symptoms persist longer than 48 hours, it is best to consult with your optometrist.

Air Conditioning
Sweltering temperatures calls for cooling and refreshing air conditioning! In order to provide a comfortable environment at home, in our cars or at the office we may be compromising the well-being of our eyes. Air conditioning tends to reduce the humidity of the ambient air contributing to our eyes becoming dry, red, itchy, irritated and/or strained. These symptoms can also lead to headaches and blurred vision. If you find that you are experiencing ocular discomfort after spending some time in air-conditioned spaces, here are a few tips:
- Avoid sitting too close to the air condition unit.
- Set the unit to room temperature, 23 degrees.
- Stay hydrated. Since air conditioning reduces humidity, it may dry out your eyes, therefore drinking more water will definitely help retain some moisture in your eyes.

If the symptoms are not manageable with these tips, speak with your eye doctor for eye drops that may help relieve your symptoms. 

SMOG
Air pollution is not only harmful to your lungs, but can also be an irritant to eyes. Like allergies, it is unavoidable. If your eyes are affected by the quality of air, it is important to limit your time spent outdoors on days when the smog levels are high. Wearing large sunglasses may help and do try to avoid wearing contact lenses because since your eyes may be drier than usual it may contribute to even more irritation.

Sunscreen
Wearing sunscreen is essential when spending time out in the sun! It is important to apply it everywhere including your face. We sometimes forget to rinse our hands after application and if you accidentally rub your eyes it may irritate them. If you unintentionally get sunscreen in your eye, rinse thoroughly with spring water. 

Also, it is important to purchase a sunscreen that can be applied to your face. Some sunscreens are not made to be applied to the delicate skin on our faces and may cause irritation.

When to Call your Eye Doctor
If you are experiencing excessive pain, sensitivity to light, double vision, eye floaters or eye discharge along with a burning sensation or, if your symptoms exceed 48 hours, then contact your optometrist for immediate attention and treatment. 

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