Protect your eyes from snow blindness!

Posted by: Judit

2013-11-19

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Snow blindness is a painful eye condition caused by too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays. It is a real risk at the snow and doesn’t only affect those who live in the polar regions; it can also affect anyone who enjoys snowy outdoor activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing.

Fresh snow is a particularly good reflector and almost doubles a person’s UV exposure, it can reflect as much as 80% of UV radiation! On top of this, as snow is usually encountered at higher altitude the atmosphere is thinner and absorbs less UV radiatio, so the UV can be stronger in these places. It is a common misconception that you can’t get burnt on a cloudy day. You can! In fact, up to 80% of solar UV radiation can penetrate light cloud cover.

Increased UV strength at higher altitudes compacted with the highly reflective nature of snow is what makes skiing and snowboarding particularly risky.

Symptoms of snow blindness may include increased tearing or watering of the eyes, bloodshot eyes, uncontrollable eyelid twitching, and eye pain. The most common symptom is a feeling of sand or grit in the eyes. Snow blindness may cause a temporary loss of vision, or even permanent vision loss in extreme cases of repeated exposure.

Treatment: if any of the symptoms of snow blindness are present, remove yourself immediately from the injury source–the sunlight and its reflective surface. Go inside, if possible, and rest in a dark room with a dark cloth covering your eyes. If you wear contact lenses, remove them, and do not rub your eyes. Seek medical attention if pain persists, as eye drops may be prescribed to ease the pain and aid healing. You may speed up the healing process by covering your eyes with eye pads, gauze bandages, or other improvised material to block all light from entering your eyes.

Suggestions to protect your eyes: Prevent snow blindness by choosing sunglasses, glacier goggles, or snow goggles that effectively block out the sun’s UV rays from all angles!

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