You fiercely protect your eyes and skin during the hot summer months by making sure you never forget your sunscreen and sunglasses before stepping outside, but did you know it’s equally important to protect your eyes during the winter months? Elements we don’t normally think about like snow, ice, and yes, even the sun, can adversely affect our eyes during cold winter season. We’ve laid out some potential hazards and tips to combat them below to help you ensure your eyes stay healthy and focused during the winter months.
Winter sports: Snow glare and the sun
Heading for the slopes this winter? It’s important to wear sunglasses or goggles that block out harmful ultraviolet radiation (UV) rays at all times. Even when skies are overcast (as they often are in the winter), when engaging in any outdoor activity like skiing, snowboarding, sledding, or even riding a snowmobile, a good pair of winter sunglasses or goggles is essential. The New York Times warns that a day on the slopes at a high altitude can do more damage to the eyes than a day at the beach.
This is because bright, white snow and ice can reflect back about 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays, and at high altitudes, those rays are even stronger. Thus, when UV rays are reflected off of water, ice or snow, this “snow glare” can cause photokeratitis – commonly known as snow blindness, or “sunburned eye.” This “burn” can cause pain, redness, tearing, blurriness, small pupils, increased sensitivity to light, and even temporary vision loss. Photokeratitis usually subsides on its own, but is totally preventable with the right eye protection.
Cold, dry air
In general, cold, dry air can evaporate the film that keeps your eyes moistened, which can also cause irritation. Even when we step inside, especially from a winter activity, heat sources like fires and furnaces meant to keep us warm can further dry out the eyes. It may make sense to invest in a humidifier or keep moisturizing drops such as artificial tears handy to use as needed.
Finding the right eye protection
Finding the right eye protection to protect yourself during winter is key. Again, it’s important to note that even if skies are overcast, engaging in any outdoor winter activity (be it sledding, skiing, skating or simply playing outside) requires adequate eye protection at all times, because UV rays will hit from every angle. So what should you look for?
- Sunglasses should block 99 percent of all UV rays, with no exception. Adequate winter sunglasses will offer 99-100 percent UV-A and UV-B blockage and polarized lenses, which are lenses with a chemical filter applied to combat glare. Wraparound sunglasses, though not particularly stylish, are also a great option.
- Goggles: If you are a winter sports enthusiast, make sure you invest in a good pair of goggles. A “good” pair of goggles will offer 99-100 percent UV ray protection, polarized lenses to protect from glare, break-proof lenses to protect the eyes from debris, and good ventilation to keep goggles from fogging up during activity.
Most ski and sport shops will carry the kinds of goggles and sunglasses you’re looking for, as will most places one shops for sunglasses. Of course, it’s also important to make an appointment to see an eye doctor to have your eyes checked regularly and keep them healthy.
Contact us today to ask about our exams or to schedule an appointment.