When we think about caring for our bodies and our health in the winter, we often think about wearing layers of clothing for warmth, making sure our skin is covered, and getting exercise despite being cooped up indoors. In addition to taking these seasonal precautions for our health and safety, it’s important to also make sure we’re taking good care of our eyes in the cold of winter.
Combating Winter Dry Eyes
One of the first potential dangers to vision and eye health during winter is the increased prevalence of dry air. While air can be dry throughout the year and depending on where you live, air becomes colder in the winter as temperature drops to the point where it cannot hold as much water vapor, or humidity, from the atmosphere as it can in warmer months. The eye surface is made of 99 percent water, so the chilly winter winds can be particularly dehydrating to eyes, causing the surface to feel dry and irritated. The dry winter air is heightened by our need in the midwest to run heaters throughout the winter. Indoor heat in our homes and forced air in our vehicles sucks even more moisture out of the air, adding to the impact on our skin and eyes.
One way to combat winter dryness is to use a humidifier, which can be used to treat your whole home or single rooms – there are now even personal humidifiers you can have on your desk at work! Moisturizing drops can also help dry eyes, particularly if you wear contact lenses – just be sure to use drops okayed by your optometrist. If you do wear contacts and they become more irritated with the dryness of winter, you may also discuss finding a different type of lens with your doctor.
Hazards of UV Rays
Another potential hazard of winter months is a sneaky one – UV rays. Though we are more likely to don protective sunglasses in the sunny summer months, winter UV can be twice as dangerous, as snow reflects the sun’s rays back at us even after they have hit the ground. To guard against damaging UV rays, wear sunglasses that block 100% of these rays. It’s also helpful to wear oversized lenses to make sure the light isn’t getting in from the top, bottom, or sides of eyewear. Click here to learn more about the damaging effects of UV rays on the eyes.
It’s also important to wear protective eye gear if you’re doing outdoor work such as plowing snow or participating in activities such as skiing and snowmobiling. Goggles will help keep debris (ice, dirt, bark, leaves) from entering the eyes, helping to prevent red, gritty, swollen eyes, as well as permanent vision damage. Of course, make sure your goggles have UV protection, too!
If you have questions about protecting your eyes during winter or are experiencing uncomfortable dry eye, contact us to make an appointment toward a solution today.