Those of you still seeing snow might have some trouble believing it, but spring is here! Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and there’s almost reason to believe that the sun will come out soon. All in all, most of us probably aren’t going to miss winter with it’s bitter cold, gloomy days that bring boredom, depression, and dry eyes. Well, not to burst your bubble here, but the change in seasons also means that you’ll be running into some new eye health challenges. Dry winter air may be on its way out, but a whole host of new potential risks are coming along with spring. Here are the most common problems and what you can do to protect your vision during springtime.
Speaking of green grass. Spring ushers in a whole new itchy, sneezy world for hay fever sufferers. As many as 60 million Americans are on that list. Hay fever occurs when when an individual’s body becomes oversensitive to pollens in the air and releases chemicals known as histamines. The results should be familiar to many readers: a stuffed up nose, coughing and sneezing, uncomfortable pressure in the sinuses, and general allergenic unpleasantness.
In early to mid-spring, the culprits are often tree and grass pollens, which are released en masse during May and June. Causes shift to other plants – ragweed being the most notorious – during later months.
Allergy-affected eyes are no picnic. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is common and causes redness, swelling, and tearing in affected people. Younger folks might also wind up with allergic shiners, telltale black eyes that appear after swelling damages the sensitive blood vessels around the eye. While these symptoms are irritating on their own, they can also cause more serious problems if left unchecked.
Eye rubbing is a natural response to allergic discomfort, but should be avoided. Rubbing too much can introduce bacteria to the eye, resulting in an infection. In extreme cases, it can physically wear away the cornea, causing a condition known as keratoconus.
If you are one of the sneezing minority, then take steps to protect yourself from pollen. Close windows during high pollen-count days (it’s common for local weather teams to give pollen forecasts), use a HEPA filter in your room, and consider using a hazard mask while performing outdoor tasks that might expose you to pollen.
Get some medication. Allergy remedies are plentifully available over the counter and can make the season much, much more tolerable. If allergies are making your life truly miserable, then you may even want to head to an immunologist for a customized treatment plan.
Protect Against Sun
Winter’s over, it’s finally time to head outside. But while you’re slathering on the sunscreen (which you are doing, right?), don’t neglect your eyes. No, no, don’t coat your eyes in sunscreen, a good pair of sunglasses will do nicely enough.
Direct exposure to sunlight isn’t always a treat for the eyes. Not that the news is all bad – recent studies have shown that natural light plays a role in eye development in children – however, if you’re off to a day at the beach, bring your shades.
UV light can have a range of nasty effects on unprotected eyes. A sunburn-like condition called photokeratitis can cause inflamed, gritty-feeling eyes, and it’s far from the worst risk. Long-term exposure to UV light can up your chances of a case of cataracts and may cause permanent damage to the optic nerve.
Polarized lenses will greatly reduce the amount of glare hitting your eyes and should vastly cut down on any risks to your vision. However, for some jobs, you’re going to want some more robust material between your eyes and the outside world.
…and More Tangible Hazards
The good news: your lawn is coming back to life. The bad news: your lawn is coming back to life very enthusiastically. Yes, it’s time to mow and weed-whack your grass into a more manicured landscape. We’re all for it, but there are some risks to be aware of.
Both weed-whackers and lawnmowers generally rely on a very quickly rotating set of blades or cords to do their job. However, the same torque that makes them ideal options for quickly cutting a lawn down to size also makes them excellent impromptu rocket launchers. Well, rock launchers – in any case, both weed-whackers and lawnmowers can scoop up small debris and hurl them right back at an unwary operator.
These tiny missiles can do some major damage. A weed-whacker can get a rock moving at seriously high velocities. If it hits your eye, you could wind up dealing with bleeding inside the eye, broken orbital bones, lacerations and cuts to the cornea, and even debris embedded within the eye itself. As you might guess, all of these are potentially serious.
Avoid the mess by adopting some basic best practices before mowing or whacking. Check the area that you’re planning to work over for any obvious launch candidates. Tossing pebbles and dirt clods out of harm’s way decreases your odds of seeing them again later at much higher speeds.
Finally, invest in a good pair of safety goggles. You won’t be able to catch absolutely everything, no matter how thorough your sweep is, but well-built eye protection can take the hit for you.
Spring’s an amazing time to start paying more attention to your physical health. Getting up early each morning for a run or brisk walk can help your entire body. Your eyes will also benefit from a great cardio workout.
Also, try incorporating a proven vision-enhancing supplement into your diet. After all, it’d be a shame to miss out on anything now that it’s finally getting sunny.