Bright sunlight, pollen and swimming can be irritating or even harmful to our eyes. Louise Gow, Specialist Lead for Eye Health at RNIB shares her “Big Three” health tips for how you can protect your eyes this summer.
1. Getting the right sunglasses
One of the biggest misconceptions about protection from sunglasses is that darker lenses will protect your eyes more, but that’s not the case.
Sunglasses protect you from two things, ultraviolet light and glare from the sun. When choosing sunglasses, make sure they have the CE and British Standard Mark; this ensures you will be protected from ultraviolet light.
You don’t need to buy a specific brand of glasses for people who are blind or partially sighted. The most important thing to remember is that wraparound sunglasses will help you more than just an off-the-shelf sunglasses frame.
The sun isn’t directly in front of you; it’s above and at the side of you too. So if you don’t have wraparound sunglasses, you’re not going to protect your eyes fully from the glare.
When it comes to the colour of the tint, it’s purely down to your personal preference. There are some eye conditions where specific colours are thought to be better than others, but it really does depend on you.
My advice is to shop around and try different colours to see which ones you think help the most. Lenses with yellow tints cut out the blue end of the spectrum so they’ll enhance contrast and make things look bolder.
Equally, you might find that it’s worth trying a dark grey or dark brown tint and see which one helps you see best. One may cut the glare out more than the other, but it does come down to what you feel more comfortable in.
Traditional sunglasses for people with sight loss are not very pretty. You might want to go for a sports range. A lot of the ones that cyclists and runners use are ideal because they contour right round the side of your face and won’t let light in from any direction.
With sports sunglasses though, you may be restricted to a small range of colour tints so although they look good, they might not actually do the job.
2. Avoiding hayfever
From spring through to the end of summer, I see a much higher rate of people coming to the low vision centre with itchy eyes. People even come in well into the autumn when there is leaf mould that can affect some people’s eyes.
Itchy eyes are caused by allergens from pollen, and that causes you to rub them. As you rub, the itch gets worse and your eyes become swollen.
The best way to avoid rubbing is to try and limit the amount of pollen that gets into your eyes. Wearing wraparound sunglasses not only protects you from the sunshine, but helps to prevent pollen from getting into your eyes too.
When you have been out in the sunshine and you come indoors, you may have pollen on your clothes, skin and hair. Having a shower is a good idea as it will wash away any pollen from your skin and hair. Changing your clothes also may feel like quite a lot of effort, but it really can help.
Another thing you can do is put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap the pollen and stop it getting into your nose.
Your optometrist or pharmacist may have a few other ideas you could try, so why not book yourself an appointment?
3. Being careful with contact lenses
During the summer months, we tend to wear our contact lenses more. Contact lenses are perfectly safe to use in the summer, but remember that water is a cause of infection. So you shouldn’t let any water come in contact with your lenses.
Do not shower or swim while wearing your lenses. If you plan to go in a sauna, jacuzzi or hot tub, take your contacts out beforehand.
If you would like to know more about contact lens care, the General Optical Council has an excellent website called loveyourlenses. The advice is broken down into a three‑step rule which I think is great.
They recommend you should stop wearing your lenses if:
your eyes don’t feel good
they look redder than normal
or you don’t see as well as you usually do.
If you notice any of these issues, contact your practitioner to check your contact lenses before you continue wearing them.