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Your Summer Holiday Eye Health Questions Answered by an Optician

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As the summer holiday peak season kicks off, people may ask questions about their eye health during summer or on holiday. Nimmi Mistry, a professional services optician at Vision Direct, is here to answer these questions, ensuring you, and your eyes, have a stress-free summer.

Can I sleep with contact lenses on the plane?

When you have a long plane journey ahead of you, you might wonder if you can enjoy a nap without the faff of removing your contacts. Unfortunately, it is better to be safe than sorry in this case.

Lenses limit the amount of oxygen and moisture that pass through to your eyes. Due to this lack of oxygen and hydration, falling asleep in contact lenses can harm the eye. These can range from mild symptoms such as redness, irritation and discomfort to more profound effects, including difficulties removing the lens, ulcers and infections that could cause keratitis (inflammation of the cornea.)

Travel wearing your glasses if you’re taking a long flight and are likely to sleep. Not only will you not need to remove your lenses on the plane, but your eyes will reap the benefit of not feeling as dry as they might have at high altitude if you were wearing contacts.

Which sunglasses are best during summer?

All sunglasses (with a fixed tint) should carry the CE mark and meet the European Standard BS EN. CE marking indicates protection against UVA and UVB; sunglasses are also graded into five categories. The higher the category, the better protected your eyes are, so make sure to factor this into picking your everyday pair.

Polarised lenses are highly recommended if you plan activities or want extra comfort for your eyes in bright conditions. These lenses feature a fixed tint that reduces glare from light reflecting off shiny surfaces, snow or water. Polarised lenses can help reduce eyestrain, enhance contrast and provide clearer vision.

Can I go swimming with my contact lenses in?

Water contains bacteria from your tap, the sea or swimming pools, and contact lenses are exceptionally porous and absorbent. This combination allows bacteria to spread on the surface of the contact lens when exposed to water, increasing the potential risk of sight-threatening eye infections.

Unfortunately, the chlorine in swimming pools won’t kill all pathogens and can also act as a mild irritant to the eye. As soft lenses are exceptionally porous, the bacteria and the chlorine in pool water can still easily reach and harm your eyes.

Wild swimming or water sports in the sea, lakes and rivers can present more issues for your eyes than a pool. This is because natural bodies of water are usually teeming with bacteria not killed off by pool chemicals. Acanthamoeba, one of the most dangerous organisms in these sources, can result in a rare but serious eye infection, Acanthamoeba keratitis.

If left untreated, this infection may lead to inflammation of the cornea, resulting in vision loss and sight-threatening complications.

If you are looking forward to a swim but struggle to see, either opt for some daily disposable contact lenses under tight-fitting waterproof swimming goggles, throw the lenses away afterwards, or purchase prescription goggles and forgo the lenses in the pool altogether.

What should I do if I get sand in my eye?

If you are enjoying yourself on the beach and happen to 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.

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.

If you wear contact lenses, remove them with clean hands and dispose of them immediately. If your eye is sore and irritated, switch to glasses for a day or two, as this should allow for your eye to settle.

Can I buy extra contact lenses abroad?

Although not ideal, accidents can happen on holiday, leaving you without enough lenses to get through your time away. This can be a real problem, especially if you opt for extended-wear lenses over daily disposable lenses. It is always recommended that if you rely on a prescription to see, you should take your glasses as a backup.

However, it may also be worth taking your prescription with you too. Certain countries will allow you to buy contact lenses with a valid prescription. Or you can explore ordering online from companies like Vision Direct, which can ship to many European destinations in a few days.

Alternatively, you could switch to daily disposable lenses and pack extra just in case, meaning you are not left without them.

Do I need to wear sun cream on my eyelids?

Whether it is due to make-up, forgetfulness or reliance on sunglasses, not everyone will remember to apply suncream to their eyelids before heading out into the summer sun. Prolonged exposure to UV rays from the sun puts your vision at risk and increases the chances of developing eyelid cancers, including basal and squamous cell carcinoma.

Cosmetically, failing to apply sufficient sun protection to your eyelids and the skin surrounding the eyes could also lead to premature ageing around your eyes. You should also wear a wide-brimmed sun hat to protect your eyes from the sun further.

What’s the best way to get sun cream out of your eyes?

If you accidentally get some sun cream into your eyes, there are a few things you should do to minimise irritation and discomfort for your eyes.

Rinse your eye

Immediately flush your eye with plenty of clean, cool water. Tilt your head to the side and open your affected eye while pouring a gentle stream of water over it. Allow the water to flow over your eye several times to help remove the sun cream. Blink your eye repeatedly while rinsing with water. This helps to further flush out the sunscreen.

Remove contact lenses (if applicable)

If you’re wearing contact lenses when sunscreen gets into your eye, it’s important to remove them with clean hands, throw them away, and replace them with a fresh pair when the discomfort has faded.

Avoid rubbing your eye

While it may be tempting to rub your eye to alleviate the discomfort and itchiness of the sun cream sensation, try to avoid doing so. Rubbing can cause further irritation and aggravate your eye. Also, if you rub your eye with unwashed hands, you risk adding more irritants to the eye or even causing an infection.

Seek medical attention (if necessary)

If the discomfort persists or you experience severe pain, visual changes, or any other concerning symptoms, it’s advisable to seek medical attention.

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