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Five ways to protect your eyes in summer

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

The summer months bring extra risks for our eyes, from swimming pool chemicals to gardening or DIY accidents.

Here are five top eye safety tips:

1. Wear sun protection

Many people sunbathe, spend a day at the beach, or attend all-day outdoor events without wearing sunglasses, a sunhat or a visor cap that would protect their eyes. They are fine at first; then they go home, go to sleep, and wake up in an hour in excruciating pain.

The sun shoots out rays of different lengths. The most damaging are the ultraviolet rays, which are classified as UVA and UVB.

Most decent sunglasses protect against UVB. If they also protect against UVA, they should say so. Buy good quality glasses - look for those carrying the CE mark and the British Standard BS EN 1836:2005, which ensures that they offer a good degree of UV protection. They should fit close to the face or wrap around. Some people like dark tints, but the UV-blocking coating is the same on any colour. Polarised lenses may be more comfortable for those working outside because they block glare.

Too much ultraviolet can accelerate the formation of cataracts. There are studies showing that people who spent a long time in the sun tended to get cataracts eight to 10 years before people who spent most time in the shade or indoors.

The hat-sunglasses combination should be worn at the beach, amusement parks, while bike riding or boating; any activity that involves prolonged sun exposure. And don't forget the little ones -- they also need protection.

2. Wear proper eye protection when doing DIY

How often do you see someone strimming the lawn edges or mowing the grass when the children are playing nearby? All are at risk of flying stones, soil or twigs. Eye protection does not mean glasses or sunglasses. It means professional quality goggles from DIY, garden or builders’ supply outlets. Corneal lacerations caused by garden maintenance are not uncommon and can need surgery.

Eye protection should also be worn for chopping wood, hammering nails, sawing or anything that may involve flying debris that can hit or enter the eye.

What if you do take a hit in the eye? The first determinant is vision - pain is secondary. If your vision is not affected, it’s generally enough to apply an ice pack, unless it’s a penetrating injury, such as that from a nail gun.

3. Protecting the eyes during sports

The bigger the ball, the less likely an eye injury. Basketballs or footballs are less likely than smaller balls to injure eyes. Squash balls and golf balls, for example, are more dangerous. In a Portuguese study reported in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, squash followed by paintball were the two most common causes of sports injuries to the eye. Most commercial paintball sites insist on eye protection. In Malaysia, where badminton is the national sport, there are many eye injuries from the weighted and feathered shuttlecock.

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