Summer is the best time of year. When the snow melts, the trees have their leaves and the sun finally peeks out from behind the clouds, most of us are eager to get outside and enjoy the nice weather. From boating to swimming to fishing to spending time with family at barbecues or on vacation, summer offers hundreds of ways to have fun. The Fourth of July is one of America’s favorite holidays. Between celebrating our freedom and enjoying the onset of summer, there is no better reason to get outside, enjoy a barbecue and watch some fireworks.
Summer also offers many ways to lead a healthier lifestyle, whether through exercise or simple vitamin D exposure. More fruits and vegetables are in season in the summer, giving people an excuse to eat better. However, despite all the excitement of the season and the benefits summer brings, there are some distinct health risks of which many individuals are unaware. While most people know to wear sunglasses outside, goggles in the pool and hats at a baseball game, summer offers more threats to eyesight and eye health than the average American may know. Direct sunlight, smoke and fireworks can all harm your eyes if the proper precautions aren’t in place.
Most people know that extended exposure to sunlight can be dangerous. In fact, sunglass sales generate millions of dollars each year. However, UV rays may be more dangerous than you realize. For example, too much exposure to intense UV rays can lead to potentially life threatening complications such as eye cancer, growths or tumors, cataracts or macular degeneration. Wearing sunglasses, particularly protective glasses, is critical during the summer months. We recommend sunglasses marked UV400, meaning that the tinted lenses are capable of keeping out 90 to 100% of both UVA and UVB light with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers. Your Fourth of July picnic might seem more fun without your shades but leaving them at home can be dangerous.
While the dangers of sunlight exposure are fairly common knowledge, the potential hazards of fireworks and smoke are less well known. Although barbecues and festive explosives can seem like summer necessities, they can also be quite harmful to your eyes. Smoke from a barbecue or smoker can contain chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide, among others. The chemicals produced from grilling can be carcinogenic and the more exposure you have, the more dangerous it can be. Despite the fun to be had hanging around the grill or barbecue, keep your distance. If you have to be close, do not look directly into smoke.
Out of smoke, sunlight and fireworks, fireworks can easily be the most dangerous. Every Fourth of July, thousands of people are injured in amateur fireworks shows. Despite the fact that many states sell small commercial fireworks legally, this does not mean that they are safe to use without the proper training and precautions. Eye injury from fireworks can range from burns, abrasions and cuts to damage to the optic nerves, retinal detachment, and, frighteningly enough, rupturing of the eyeball. If you choose to purchase and use fireworks without a training course, make sure to read the instructions carefully, keep your distance, and always wear safety goggles. If you are the attendee at an at-home fireworks show, sit at least fifty feet from the explosions, preferably behind the display and away from where the fireworks are aimed.
Summer may be the best season of the year and the Fourth of July might be the best summer holiday but proper eye safety is essential no matter your plans. Protecting your eyes from the sun, smoke and fireworks can be the difference between a medical emergency and a fun holiday outside. As the saying goes, the eyes are the window to the soul. Your eyes are important. Be sure to keep them safe this summer.