Wildfires, including those still devastating parts of the western United States and Canada, can harm your health, including your eyes. The hot smoke, ash, and soot billowing into the air contain a mixture of noxious gases and fine particles of burned vegetation that spread with the winds, sometimes hundreds of miles from the fire.
Wildfire smoke is made up of thousands of compounds, including those used in plastic, dry-cleaning solutions, and solvents. Asbestos, a toxic air contaminant, is also released into the air when buildings burn.
These pollutants can harm your eye's surface, causing blurred vision and redness, and may also cause y a burning sensation leading eyes to become watery, dry, or itchy. Wildfire smoke also aggravates pre-existing health conditions like dry-eyes and ocular allergies and may make wearing contact lenses uncomfortable—even impossible—to wear.
In extreme cases, wildfire smoke may even lead to scarring of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane covering the white of the eye and the eyelids’ underside. Scarring damages the conjunctiva and its protective mucous layer.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests the following steps to keep your eyes healthy when smoke is in the air:
- Double the quantity of over-the-counter artificial tears you use to address eye conditions and cool the artificial tears’ vials or bottles in a refrigerator before using
- Apply cool compresses to your eyelids
- Stay indoors and close the windows to reduce smoke’s effects
- Use an air purifier or air filter in your home or office
- Refrain from drawing outside air into your air conditioner
- Refrain from wearing contact lenses, which attract wildfires’ dust particles
- Wear eyeglasses, sunglasses, or specialty goggles if you are outdoors
Continue observing these precautions even after the smoke has cleared as particles can linger in the air for up to two weeks.
If smoke-related symptoms or discomfort persist, please contact Valley Vision Clinic. We will examine your eyes and prescribe the appropriate treatment. We treat patients with wildfire-related vision challenges from Walla Walla and throughout Washington.
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