Eye Dangers Lurk Among Summertime Activities

Besides the sun's rays, which can damage the eyes, many fun summer activities can be potentially harmful to your eyes. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to protect your eyes against these summertime threats--leaving you out of the optometrist office and enjoying fun in the sun with your family.

Potential Danger: Mowing the lawn, weed whacking, and trimming shrubbery can send debris, which can injure an eye, flying into the air.

Protection: Wear eye goggles you can buy at a local home supply store when performing outdoor chores. Pick up stones, sticks, and other debris on the lawn before cutting grass. You should also keep the underpart of the mowing deck on the mower clear of debris.

Potential Danger: If you come into direct contact with poison ivy or oak, it can affect the sensitive areas of skin around your eyes. Rinse your eyes out with lukewarm water as soon as you can. This may help stop the itching temporarily.

Protection: Avoid touching your face so you don't get the plant's oil near your eyes. If you do get poison on your inner eyelids, see an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Your eye care professional may recommend antihistamine and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops to reduce swelling and inflammation. For a more severe reaction, a prescription for an oral corticosteroid may be necessary to relieve symptoms.

Potential Danger: While you don't want insects to bite or sting you near your eyes, you don't want to get insect repellent in your eyes either.

Protection: If you use repellent, don't spray it on your face. Spray it on your hands and then rub it on your face, but don't apply it around your eyes. For insect bites or stings near the eye, call your doctor if you develop a fever or the area becomes red, sore, and swollen. These may be signs of infection.

Potential Danger: Infections are common among contact lens wearers during the summertime, particularly if you wear your lenses when you go swimming. Lots of pathogens live in water, but if certain nasty germs get under the lens, you could find yourself suffering a serious eye infection.

A parasite known as Acanthamoeba can cause an infection that may lead to vision loss. Antibiotic treatment isn't always enough to fight off this severe corneal infection. Sometimes a corneal ulcer can permanently scar your eye and require the need for surgery.

Protection: Take contact lenses out of your eyes before you swim. If you swim wearing your contacts, you could be developing an infection if afterward your eyes look red and start to hurt or your vision gets blurry.

Potential Danger: Popular summertime sports like tennis, baseball, softball, and golf can lead to eye injuries.

Protection: Sports glasses help keep your eyes safe and may even improve your athletic performance. If you play baseball or softball, you can reduce the risk of eye injury by wearing a polycarbonate eye protector on your helmet.

Potential Danger: Fireworks are a favorite part of Fourth of July and other summertime celebrations. Unfortunately, injuries related to fireworks -- many of which are to the eyes -- are common over the holiday too. A study conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2011 found that of the approximately 9,600 individuals treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries involving fireworks, 17 percent of those injuries were to the eyes.

Protection: Leave lighting fireworks to the professionals who are trained in handling them. If you do light fireworks yourself, wear protective eye wear. Be sure to check the safety guidelines and warnings on the package, and avoid leaning your face over a firework as you light it.