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While allergens in spring and fall can wreak havoc on your eyes, winter brings its own risks to your eye health. If you’re hitting the slopes this holiday season, you already know how much a good pair of goggles can help protect your eyes from sunlight that reflects off bright white snow. However, you may not have thought of some of the other dangers that winter brings to your vision, whether you’re on or off the slopes.

WINTER WINDS BRING DRY EYES

The winter sun reflecting off snowy mountaintops is not the only hazard to your vision this season. As temperatures drop and winds pick up, the humidity in the air drops, too. You’ve no doubt already stocked up on lip balm to avoid dry, cracked lips, and anyone who’s prone to dry skin has already purchased a new bottle of skin lotion for the season. Well, your eyes aren’t immune to all of that dry air, either.

Talk to your ophthalmologist about using eye drops to prevent dry eyes during the winter. Your eye doctor may prescribe artificial tears, or he or she may have alternate suggestions. For example, if you spend most of your time indoors during the winter, you may have your HVAC system to thank for your dry eyes.

Central heaters tend to dry out the air in your home or office. Instead of using eye drops, you might benefit more from using a humidifier to counteract the drying effect. Talk to your eye doctor about dry eye treatments based on your personal eye health.

WEAR EYE PROTECTION WHEN SHOVELING SNOW

If you live in a part of the country where you need to shovel snow or split wood, you’re at risk for hurling dirt, grit, splinters, small stones, and shards of ice into your eyes. If you’re shoveling or chopping, be sure to wear eye protection, and if you do get something in your eyes, remember to wash them out with clear water for several minutes.

Whatever you do, if you think that you have something in one or both eyes, do not rub your eyes. This can result in grinding particles into the eye and cutting the cornea. When left untreated, lacerations to the cornea can become infected.

BATTLING INDOOR ALLERGENS

If you’ve humidified your home but your eyes still feel dry and itchy, you may need to do some winter cleaning. With your house closed off from the outside world, any allergens such as pet dander, dust mites, etc. in the air are trapped in the house and will circulate through the air, over and over again.

To deal with indoor allergens, vacuum all rugs and have all of your pets groomed for the winter to cut down on dander. Then, replace your home’s air filters, as new filters will catch more airborne allergens than filters that have been in use for a few months.

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