The start of the college semester is just around the corner, and right now most college-bound students are busy packing boxes, preparing schedules, and cringing at the price of textbooks. For those students’ eyes, college means sleep deprivation, lots of close-up work, screen time galore, and close contact with other germs. This can lead to eye fatigue, dry eyes and conjunctivitis or other eye diseases. To help keep your eyes in top shape for the course load ahead, put the following tips into practice.
1. Take frequent breaks. Long stretches of time spent staring at a screen, reading a book, or completing homework can take their toll on your eyes, causing fatigue and dry eyes. To prevent this, remember the 20-20-20 rule: after 20 minutes, look away at something at least 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. If you are still getting dry eyes even after following this rule, keep some lubricating eye drops on hand (but do not overuse the eye drops; be sure to follow the directions on the bottle). Try studying outside, as well, which may help you to not lean in so close to your books or computer and prevent fatigued eyes.
2. Don’t wear your contact lenses in the pool or shower. Contact lenses are meant for contact with your eyes and sterile liquid only. Wearing them in the pool can introduce germs or parasites that can populate behind the lens and cause some pretty serious eye infections. The same thing can happen in the shower (which, especially if it is a community shower, hosts lots of germs anyway). Don’t wash your lenses with water, either; only use contact lens solution.
3. Don’t over-wear your contact lenses. Over-wearing the contact lenses for longer than they are designed for (typically 8-12 hours) produces the same effect as sleeping in them. Your eyes become deprived of oxygen, and, as a result, your vision may become blurred and inflammation may set in. If you don’t have a backup pair of glasses, you may want to purchase some before school starts. That way, as you approach the end of your contact lens usability for the day, you can switch to glasses and prevent negative effects. Glasses are also great for those days when you are late to class and don’t have the time to put your contact lenses in.
4. For the ladies, use your own makeup. You may share everything with your college roommates, from food to clothes to pens to shoes, but don’t share your makeup. Makeup, especially mascara, is a breeding ground for bacteria, and while your eyes may not be affected by what is living on your mascara or eyeshadow brush, they may get an infection from what is living on your roommate’s brush. Opt for the “natural look” instead of risking an infection from someone else’s makeup, because the “conjunctivitis look” is not pretty!
5. Wash your hands frequently. Another way of getting an eye infection in college is by touching your face (like sleepily rubbing your eyes) when your hands are not clean. Almost everything you touch will have been touched by plenty of other students, and you don’t want those germs waiting on your hands to leap into your eyes or mouth. This will also help prevent general illness, too.
6. Wear eye protection during sports. From pool chlorine and germs to flying balls and flying elbows, your eyes are at risk of injury during sports. Make sure to wear the appropriate eyewear for your sport, and consider wearing sports glasses to protect your eyes even if they are not required for your sport. If you wear contact lenses or glasses, sports glasses with a prescription lens is a great option to avoid broken glasses or injury from the contact lens if you are hit in the face.