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We all know the importance of protecting our eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays, especially in the summer with so much time spent outside under the sun. But to give your eyes proper protection all summer long, sunglasses are just the beginning.
If your summer yard work goes beyond basic trimming and gardening, take a cue from professional landscapers and don a pair of protective eyewear. "You'd be amazed how many injuries we see from weed eaters and similar types of products," explains Robert Mulgrew, OD, a VSP network doctor at Affinity Eye Care in Tucson, AZ. "Because of the speed and unpredictable trajectory of clippings and debris, it's a good idea to wear protective eyewear as a precaution."
That same trajectory risk exists when dealing with fireworks—the cause of thousands of eye-related injuries each year. Wear protective eyewear, keep children at a safe distance, or better yet, skip the personal fireworks and enjoy a professional display from afar.
With more time for play and extracurricular activities, lots of kids are swimming, playing in summer sports leagues, or simply exploring in their backyard. "We see quite a few BB gun injuries," says Dr. Mulgrew. "With that extra free time, kids tend to get into all kinds of activities. Proper supervision and prevention is really key."
The best piece of equipment in any of these scenarios is a well-fitting pair of polycarbonate lenses. "Because polycarbonate is impact-resistant, it's ideal for sports and other high-impact activities." That break-resilient material acts as a shield, protecting eyes from foreign objects and possible puncture wounds.
Whether hitting the beach, taking a dip in the pool, or roasting marshmallows over the campfire, some of the most fun summer activities are accompanied by unpleasant eye irritations.
"Swimmers who wear contact lenses are at the highest risk," explains Dr. Mulgrew, "because those lenses act like a sponge." Chlorine and microorganisms in pool water can actually be absorbed by the contact lens, irritating the cornea and even causing painful mini-abrasions or infections. "Your best line of defense is to remove your contacts before getting in the water." If you're at home under the waves, be sure to wear well-fitting goggles to prevent any leaks from getting in and irritating your eyes.
While smoke won't do too much damage to healthy individuals, it does contain small micro particles of burned organic matter, which can cause temporary burning and irritation. "If you are going to be in that environment," suggests Dr. Mulgrew, "it may be a good idea to bring artificial tears or have eye wash on hand at the very least." Avoid the smoke and sand and flush your eyes as needed.
Since so many of these summer activities take place outdoors, don't skimp on sun protection. "Not all sunglasses are created equal!" Dr. Mulgrew reminds us. Make sure the sunglasses you're shopping for have lenses that offer full UV protection—not just a tint. The FDA requires sunglasses to be properly labeled with SPF information. So check the label and choose a pair with 100% UVA/UVB protection.
Also look for optical-quality frames. "Cheap lenses you find at swap meets or discount stores are sometimes distorted, and can cause headaches or eye strain." You can find sunglasses that offer the best optical-quality and protection from UV radiation at Eyeconic.