For many Southern Oregonians, “the sights and smells of summer” has taken on a whole new meaning these past five years. Passionate outdoorsmen are forced to drive hours to find fresh air and a clear view. Local tourist attractions that usually thrive are struggling for business. And as wildfires rage across the Western United States, googling “air quality” has become a daily ritual.
Another issue starting to feel familiar to many seasonal smoke-dwellers: irritated eyes.
That wildfire smoke can cause headaches and sore throats is no secret to the Pacific Northwest. And our local news channels continually remind us that hazardous air exposure will aggravate lung or cardiac conditions. But perhaps the most common symptom of the smoke is red, burning, itching or dry eyes.
As our eyes are exposed to the foreign substances in the air— such as dust, gases, and other toxins- it often triggers an inflammatory reaction. For those who already suffer from Dry Eye Syndrome, getting some relief can be especially difficult. But even the average, healthy person living in prolonged smoke will likely experience some dryness or irritation.
In addition to the general recommendations for reducing the negative effects of smoke— such as staying indoors and changing out your air filter— there are several measures you can take to protect your eye health.
First of all, preservative-free artificial tears are an easy way to alleviate dry and itchy eyes. Applying them up to 6 times a day, as needed, will likely ease most sufferers’ symptoms.
If you don’t have any artificial tears on hand, a cool compress can also help- although it is not a convenient solution when out and about.
Protective eyewear is also recommended, when outdoors and close to a burning or recent fire. Though they are invisible, toxic particles will easily get into the eye.
Of course, the best solution of all is some nice, heavy rain to clear out our valley. But while we all hope and pray for an uncharacteristically rainy end of August, don’t let irritated eyes slow you down!
Come pick up some preservative-free artificial tears at Central Point Eyecare, and don’t hesitate to give us a call if symptoms are worsening!