As a result of worsening bushfire conditions across Australia, a thick dense smoke haze has smothered parts of the country for weeks on end resulting in people suffering from severe eye irritations, such as burning or itchy eyes. As a result, it has never been a more important time to stay on top of your eye health and take immediate steps to protect your eyes from hazardous bushfire smoke.
With the Air Quality Index pushed to record levels – beyond 500, over 2.5 times the ‘hazardous’ rating – in many cities and a suffocating 5,109 in Canberra on New Year’s Day, optometrists have seen an influx of patients with increased eye discomfort and irritation as a result of the extra particles in the air from the bushfire smoke.
Luke Arundel, Optometry Australia’s Chief Clinical Officer, suggests the following tips to help mitigate the burning and stinging effects of smoke to the eyes.
Protect your eyes from bushfire smoke by applying these simple 7 tips:
- Lubricate – One of the best ways to alleviate irritation in your eyes is to lubricate them with eye drops or artificial tears which you can buy over the counter. People with underlying conditions already using eye drops may wish to double their application until the smoke dissipates.
- Don’t rub – Be careful to NOT rub your eyes which can worsen the irritation.
- Take a break from contacts – Contact lens wearers may find smoke particularly problematic and should give their eyes a break from contact lens use if their eyes are experiencing irritation.
- Cool your eyes – Lying down with a cold compress over your eyes can be soothing.
- Stay indoors – particularly if you have an underlying condition that makes you more sensitive to smoke, such as dry eye, it’s best to stay indoors as much as possible.
- Wear glasses or goggles – Specialty goggles that are often prescribed to patients with dry eye can be an effective option for people experiencing sensitivity to smoke in the air. And close-fitting glasses or sunglasses will provide at least some barrier to particle pollution.
- See your optometrist – If your symptoms persist, make an appointment to see your optometrist who may be able to prescribe a more specific treatment.
If you need help because you’re suffering from burning or stinging eyes, contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist to book an appointment.