Suffering from eye irritation lately? If you live in New South Wales then bush fires could be to blame, and they can affect your eyes long before you’re even aware of the visible smoke.
Why does smoke irritate eyes?
Although smoke contain gas and liquid particles, visible smoke consists of tiny solid particles of un-burnt material including soot (carbon), tar and ash. These airborne particles can travel thousands of kilometres and affect not only air quality but aggravate the delicate membranes of throats, lungs and eyes.
Fine particles are carried further and faster and can irritate eyes weeks before the larger particles create a visible smog.
Who is susceptible to smoke irritation?
Smoke exposure can aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma and emphysema, leading to coughing and shortness of breath. Larger smoke particles lodge in the delicate tissues of the eyes, nose and throat, while finer particles can make their way into the fine air sacs of the lungs.
Dry eye sufferers beware
While smoke can irritate anyone’s eyes, sufferers of dry eye disease or Sjogren’s Syndrome are particularly vulnerable. Smoke is often accompanied by hot, dry conditions, both of which further aggravate dry eyes.
What can you do to reduce smoke irritation?
The Eye Practice recommends the following strategies to reduce eye irritation from bush fire smoke:
- Stay indoors: keep out of the smoke as much as you can. Recirculate the air in your car and exercise at the gym instead of outdoors.
- Add a layer of protection: preservative-free ocular lubricants can help. While they do not address the underlying cause of your dry eye disease, they can bring almost instant relief and flush out smoke particles.
- Cover up: even a pair of close fitting sunglasses and a baseball cap will keep smoky air away from the surface of your eyes. If your dry eye symptoms are pronounced, a goggle such as Wiley X will fully protect the eyes from airborne particles.
- Be on the alert: Parks and Wildlife issue smoke warnings whenever the smoke is likely to affect people (or reduce visibility on roads). If you suffer from dry eyes, keep a look out on their website for updates.