How to Protect Eyes from Pollution + Smoke

Smoke, smog and air pollution is reaching record highs in some unexpected parts of the globe.


Last month, the Australian city of Sydney – home to the 2000 Olympics – joined New Delhi and Beijing as one of the worst ten scorers on the Air Quality Index (AQI).


The Sydney Morning Herald reported that this surprise entry to the AQI was caused primarily by the recent bushfire crisis, as well as high levels of dust generated by the prolonged drought conditions being experienced across the state of New South Wales.


In addition to causing respiratory problems, short term exposure to smoke, smog and air pollution can cause pain and irritation to the eyes. For those with dry eye syndrome, symptoms are exacerbated.


It may also cause a sore throat, coughing, dizziness, headaches and nausea. Long term, air pollution is thought to contribute to cancers, heart and lung diseases.


How to Protect Eyes from Pollution + Smoke


When air quality is extremely poor, health experts recommend staying indoors where possible.


In fact, in Beijing, school is cancelled and outdoor barbeques are banned when air quality is at its worst, while heavy industry is forced o close or scaled back by authorities.


And while you may not be able to see the air pollution once the bushfire has been extinguished, invisible particles of ash and dust can linger up to two weeks after the event, continuing to impact your eyes.


Wearing closely-fitted glasses or goggles in areas affected by smoke or hazardous air quality, help to protect the eyes.


What to Do When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes


If eyes do become red and sore, avoid touching or rubbing them. Switch out your contact lenses and wear glasses instead for a couple of days to allow the symptoms to settle.


Relieve the pain and discomfort by using preservative free lubricating eye drops – available from a pharmacy or optometrist – or, if you are able to rest, lie down with a cold wet cloth over the eye area.


Using a humidifier or air purifier in the bedroom at night is also thought to help.


Finally, if eyes remain inflamed or become worse, it is worth making an appointment at an optometrist for a full eye health check.

Janet Camilleri

When Janet Camilleri was growing up, her mother told her to become a teacher as "you can't make a living from writing". It might have taken a while, but it seems her mother was wrong. Now a fulltime copywriter, Janet is married with two grown children and one very spoilt cat.