Sand and a coastal breeze are the staples of many beaches, but together they can wreak havoc on your eyes. Getting sand in your eyes can ruin any beach trip if left untreated or handled improperly and can lead to an eye infection, which can cause a cornea ulcer and other complications.
It is important to avoid this and to know what to do if it happens so you can get the relief you need as soon as possible and protect your eyes.
As you bask in the sun on the beach, a sudden gust of wind blindsides you, and sand finds its way into your eyes. It’s undoubtedly frustrating, and your initial instinct might be to panic, but staying calm and composed is essential, as panicking is not the only thing that can worsen the discomfort.
Nimmi Mistry, the professional services optician at Vision Direct, shares the dos and don’ts when getting sand in your eyes, ensuring you and your eyes have a stress-free holiday.
Don’t rub your eyes
If you get sand in your eye, the most important thing is to avoid rubbing your eye. Although this is a normal reaction, rubbing the eye could cause the coarse sand to scratch the eye, potentially causing a corneal abrasion and, ultimately, an infection if ignored.
Wash your hands
You must wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your eyes to avoid further bacteria and dirt entering the eyes. Try and blink frequently to attempt to flush the sand out, and at the first opportunity, find a clean water source to rinse your eye out with.
Do flush your eyes as soon as possible
You should try and flush your eyes with clean bottled water as soon as possible to flush debris and reduce discomfort. In some locations, tap water will be safe to use; however, water from the tap can contain bacteria, so if you are unsure, use bottled water or visit a pharmacy to purchase a specific eye wash for safe and effective flushing.
Similarly, never use seawater from lakes, rivers, or streams to flush your eyes, as they may contain contaminants and other organisms such as Acanthamoeba.
Acanthamoeba Keratitis is an infection that can occur if the eye comes into contact with irritation or a cut and gets exposed to contaminated water. It can spread when you touch your eyes with infected water on your hands. Contact lens wearers are particularly susceptible due to frequent hand and eye contact.
Do remove your contact lenses
If you wear contact lenses, remove them with clean hands and dispose of them immediately. This is because contact lenses can trap germs on the surface of your eye, where they breed, leading to a serious eye infection. If your eye is sore and irritated, switch to glasses for a day or two, as this should allow for your eye to settle.
It may be worth switching to daily disposable lenses for the holiday to ensure you have clean lenses on hand should anything happen. This is more cost-effective than bringing various spares of longer-wear lenses. All lens wearers should also take a copy of their prescription and glasses as a backup to avoid being caught short.
Don’t wait seek medical attention if irritation persists
If you find that the irritation has persisted and you have taken the steps necessary to clean your eye, you may need to seek a medical professional to look. If the sand has caused a corneal abrasion, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
- Excessive tearing
- Red eyes
- Pain when opening and closing your eyelids
If left, and there is no improvement, it could lead to an infection, which could cause serious long-term problems. Consult a doctor, even if on holiday, and they will advise the best treatment for the infection, inflammation, and any pain you may be experiencing.