As winter arrives, the temperature starts to decrease and the cold and flu season is well and truly upon us. As many of us reach for warming foods and a thick winter coat to protect against the cold, we may forget that it is as important to look after our eyes as it is the rest of the body.
How can we protect our eyes in winter?
Let’s look at some of the common problems that can affect our eyes during the colder months plus six winter eye care tips to keep them healthy.
Why does cold weather affect dry eyes?
Due to a lack of moisture in the air and increasing heat sources in the home, our eyes can become dry and itchy. As well as finding that your eyes are dry in winter, you may even experience pain, swelling and blurred vision as your eyes dehydrate.
What causes watery eyes in cold weather?
The cold wind and low temperatures can irritate the eyes and make us over produce tears, which is annoying and can make our vision blurry.
Although it may sound counter-intuitive, cold and windy air is actually very drying to eyes and skin. If you find that your eyes water when you go outside it’s because it’s your body’s way of protecting our eyes by ensuring they stay lubricated.
Can the cold weather affect your eyesight?
In addition to low temperatures, the winter months are much generally much darker. This can make certain tasks difficult, such as reading, and straining to see in low light can make your eyes feel more tired.
To avoid eye strain, always make sure you are reading or working in well-lit areas. Read our article on the causes of eye strain for more advice.
Digital Eye Strain
As we tend to spend more time indoors in winter due to the dark cold dark nights, we often spend more time on our digital devices and watching TV. Prolonged or improper use of these screens can cause headaches or tiredness to our eyes.
To reduce digital eye strain, remember the 20-20-20 rule.
Contact lenses and the effects of winter
During winter with the harsh winds and freezing temperatures and with the lack of moisture in the air, wearing contact lenses can cause discomfort and lead to irritation, but there are certain things we can do to help such as using contact-lens friendly eye drops for lubrication.
6 simple tips to help protect our eyes in winter
1. Make sure you drink plenty of water
Many of us tend to drink more hot drinks during the colder months, but did you know this can dehydrate us further? Drinking plenty of fresh water keeps our eyes, skin and the rest of our body hydrated and this is as important to our body’s vital functions in the winter as it is the summer.
2. Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fresh leafy vegetables
We’ve got plenty of suggestions on the best foods to eat to keep your eyes at their best:
- Can carrots help you see in the dark? They may be useful in the gloomy winter months!
- What are lutein and zeaxanthin and how do they help with vision?
- Which vitamins are best for overall eye health?
3. Create an eye-friendly temperature
The use of heaters and radiators can make the air become dry and irritate our eyes. To keep your eyes moist, try using a dehumidifier in the home. If possible to do so, reduce the temperature of radiators to create a cooler atmosphere.
4. Keep your hands clean
Colds and flu can affect our eyes, causing pain and soreness along with the temptation to rub them often. If you are unwell, always make sure you keep your hands clean after blowing your nose or coughing, especially if you wear contact lenses.
5. Use lubricating eye drops to keep your eyes moist
These are especially useful just before you venture outside to protect your eyes from the cold air, but also can come in handy if your eyes feel dry indoors at work or home. Just make sure that if you are a contact lens wearer that they are suitable for lenses.
6. Don’t forget your glasses!
Glasses wearers rejoice! Wearing glasses is one of the best ways to protect our eyes in winter against the cold, drying winds as they provide a barrier.
In the snow, remember to wear sunglasses that give you UV protection. Although it may not seem like it, the sun’s damaging UV rays are present even on snowy days. UV is reflected off the surface of the snow, which can cause sunburn – called Photokeratitis – of the eye.
Further winter eye care advice
If the low winter light has got you feeling gloomy, there are plenty of ways you can improve your experience:
- How to drive safely in low winter sun
- Tips to reduce glare whilst driving at night
- 10 simple New Year’s resolutions to make that promote healthy eyes
- Book an appointment with your local opticians to talk through any questions.