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How to protect your eyes from harsh winter conditions

December 30, 2018
Warren Willey

It could be argued that there are not many things as important as your eyes. Living in Southeast Idaho, eye health becomes very important, due to our drastic environmental conditions. Going outside at 20 (or lower) degrees, then quickly coming back inside, where the temperature is at least 70 degrees in the most conservative of homes, causes dry skin, chapped lips, and sore, scratchy eyes.

My own kids suffer from the effects of going from hot-to-cold-to-hot this time of year. As we love to sled and are avid snowshoe people, eye issues become very apparent rather quickly. There are some easy and very helpful things you can do not only to protect your eyes long term from the harsh environment, but also to relieve discomfort caused by our environment this time of year.

Besides moving to Phoenix, Arizona, during the winter months, as so many snowbirds do, simple steps to protect your eyes and the eyes of your loved ones this time of year can make a huge difference. First and foremost — stay hydrated. Drink a sip of water every 15 minutes while awake.

Taking adequate doses of fish oil for the omega-3’s is also very helpful. Doses of 5 to 10 grams a day can make a big difference in your skin and eye health this time of year. Wearing appropriate sunglasses while outside is also of vital importance to protect your eyes from the wind and from the light reflecting off the snow.

If you come inside with sore and irritated eyes, using a warm, damp washcloth over your eyes provides great relief from the irritation. Cucumber slices soaked in cold water, then placed over your eyes for 15 minutes can also make a world of difference. Coconut oil can help moisturize your eyes both after exposure and before.

Before going outside, protect your face with coconut oil by putting a thin layer around your face, making sure to include the skin over and under the eyes. My grandmother’s favorite remedy of witch hazel also has been shown to ease irritation and inflammation when applied topically.

To use on inflamed, irritated winter eyes, dip clean cotton pads into a small amount of witch hazel and place on closed eyes for 10 minutes after exposure to the outdoors. It does wonders.

You only have two eyes, and their importance cannot be overstated. Protect your eyes from our winter conditions by using some of the above techniques. You will “see” a difference!

Dr. Warren Willey is a Pocatello physician. Visit his website at http://drwilley.com.

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