Most adults are aware of the dangers of UV radiation when lounging on the beach during the summer time, but did you know that UV rays also present a hazard during the winter? A recent article in EHS Today titled “Winter Workplace Eye Protection” brings to light the very real danger of eye injuries caused by UV rays during the months of winter.
Eye injuries have always been a major concern for workplace safety, most commonly for those who operate machinery with many moving parts or those working in construction. Seventy percent of those injuries are caused by a foreign body entering the eye, while twenty six percent are caused by exposure to harmful substances or environments. Winter weather conditions, extreme temperatures, and UV exposure are among those harmful environments.
UV radiation affects the eyes in the same way that it affects a person’s skin. The damage done by UV rays is irreversible and cumulative in nature. This means that the damage builds up over time and can never be reduced. Short term damage can cause eyes to become swollen, bloodshot, or hypersensitive, while long term damage can be much more serious, causing cataracts, macular degenerations, growths, or even cancer. Even though most people only consider sun damage to be a summer problem, that is not always the case. Snow on the ground can reflect UV rays directly into the eyes, causing just as much damage as sunlight during the summer months.
With the winter months rapidly approaching, it is important to remember eye protection whenever you are outdoors. There are three ways you can protect your eyes this winter:
1. Keep your eyes moist- Avoid direct contact with heaters or blowers that might create dryness in the air and in your eyes. Humidifiers and eye drops can help keep the moisture in your eyes and prevent damage.
2. Always wear sunglasses when outdoors- This is not a tip only for the summer. Snowy conditions can reflect and intensify UV rays, making them twice as strong as they are in the summer.
3. Wear glasses, not contacts- Although some people prefer contacts they require additional moisture in order to stay comfortable and can increase dryness in the eye. Eye glasses make it much simpler to keep eyes moist during the winter months. If you must wear contacts, practice extra caution and keep them moist.