FY(eye): The human eye can see over 500 shades of gray.

The arrival of winter promises relief from itchy eyes caused by fall allergies, but it also brings new conditions and activities that may irritate your eyes in other ways. While you protect yourself from the cold this winter, you can also make sure you don’t neglect your eyes by following the tips below.

Turning Up the Heat Means Turning Up the Dryness. We all enjoy coming home to a warm house at the end of a day outdoors in the cold. Unfortunately, one side effect of turning up the thermostat is that moisture in the air is reduced and this can lead to dry and irritated eyes.

It’s important to keep your eyes moist so that you don’t rub them. Rubbing your eyes will cause further irritation as well as the risk of scratching them. You can relieve your dry eyes by placing humidifiers around the house and by keeping eye drops handy.

Like most people, you probably can’t control the humidity level at work. For this reason, you might want to keep a humidifier in your bedroom so you can moisturize your eyes during the night before heading to work the next morning. When you’re at work, eye drops can help with dry eye problems.

We spend more time indoors with the windows closed during the winter. Closed windows means increased exposure to dust, pet dander, cigarette smoke and household sprays, all of which can irritate eyes.

Cleaning and vacuuming more frequently using a HEPA filter in the winter will reduce the presence of allergens in your house. When possible, replacing carpeting and rugs, which trap allergens in their fibers, can also be helpful.

During cold weather, many people spend more time indoors watching TV, reading, or on the computer. All of these activities can cause eyestrain and dryness. Try to give your eyes occasional breaks from these hobbies by taking time to blink or look off at distant objects for several minutes. It might sound strange but your eyes will appreciate the time off.

Bundle Up. No matter how bundled up you are as you head outdoors in the winter, the cold temperatures and wind can cause dryness and discomfort in your eyes. One way to help keep the cold wind out of your eyes is by wearing glasses. Wearing a hood or hat with a brim also helps give additional protection and keeps you bundled up and warm. If you plan on being out in the cold for a long period of time, bring along eye drops (we recommend Clear Eyes, of course) to help reduce the drying effects of the wind and frigid temperatures.

Since contact lens wearers are particularly susceptible to the drying effects of winter weather, they should try to keep eye drops handy to help moisturize their eyes. Lenses may also be replaced with eyeglasses when possible and especially if you notice your eyes are irritated.

Stay in the Shades. “Winter sun” may sounds like an oxymoron as we usually associate the dangers of the sun’s UV rays with the summer, but these risks continue into the winter. When you put away your light clothing for the season, hang onto your sunglasses and try to stay in the habit of putting them on when you go outside.

Even though it may be overcast or cloudy when you leave the house, you still need your glasses since damaging UV rays are still present. In addition, weather sometimes changes unexpectedly and the sun could come bursting through at any time.

Sunglasses are especially important when there’s snow on the ground. The light reflected off the snow can be very intense and too much exposure may damage the eyes and even cause snow blindness, officially known as photokeratitis. Photokeratitis is a painful condition but only lasts a day or two. Symptoms of Photokeratitis include tears, twitching and sensitivity to bright light. Avoid the pain and irritation by sporting some stylish sunglasses.

Hit the Slopes, Just Not Too Hard. Good eye protection is essential when participating in winter sports since UV rays are stronger at high altitudes. Skiing and snowboarding put eyes at increased risk of damage. You’ll also be exposed to the intense light reflected off the snow for a longer period of time than usual. Air at high altitudes also tends to be drier which can further irritate eyes.

When you buy goggles, try to choose ones with maximum UV protection. In addition, impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses reduce the risk of injury from debris, ice, branches, flying ski poles or snowballs. Keeping your lenses clear is important for your safety on the slopes. Anti-fog protection and good ventilation are extra features to look for when it comes to buying your new goggles.

You may also want to consider having goggles with different color lenses available. Yellow and gold ones work well in low and moderate light and rose lenses are wonderful during gray days. While darker tints are effective in bright light, clear goggles should be used at night or in fog.

Winter activities can be so much fun that is it is easy to overlook eye protection and ways to avoid irritation from cold weather and indoor environments. The tips above should help your eyes stay healthy and pain free this winter season.

This resource is only a guide and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or ignore professional medical advice because of something you have read on a website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call a doctor, dial 911 or go directly to a hospital Emergency Room (ER).

References:

All About Vision

Prevent Blindness America

Mayo Clinic

 

WebMD