Wildfires are an unfortunate reality in New York City and the Northeast right now. Beyond the obvious dangers, one of the less discussed but widely experienced consequences of wildfire smoke is the irritation it can cause to the eyes. We aim guide you through understanding and effectively treating eye irritation resulting from exposure to wildfire smoke.
Wildfire smoke is composed of a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning vegetation, building materials, and other substances. When these particles come into contact with the eyes, they can cause them to become red, itchy, and watery. People who wear contact lenses or have pre-existing eye conditions might experience more severe symptoms.
Now, let’s dive into what you can do to alleviate the irritation.
The first and most critical step is to limit your exposure to the smoke. Stay indoors as much as possible, keeping windows and doors closed. Using air purifiers can also help in reducing the indoor concentration of smoke particles.
Dryness can exacerbate the irritation caused by smoke. Use Preservative Free artificial tears which can be bought over-the-counter, to keep your eyes moist. Preservative free artificial tears work better than non-preservative free as non-preservative free drops can exacerbate the irritation and corneal inflammation. Use the preservative free drops before, during and after smoke exposure. Artificial tears not only lubricate the eye but they help wash out any smoke particles. Make sure to avoid eye drops that 'get the red out' such as Visine as they can sometimes make irritation worse.
Applying a cool compress can often provide instant relief. Simply wet a clean cloth with cool water, wring it out, and place it over your closed eyes for several minutes. Cool compress helps decrease inflmattaion
If you wear contact lenses, it might be wise to switch to glasses during periods of heavy smoke exposure. Contact lenses can trap particles and further irritate the eyes.
If your symptoms are especially severe or persistent, don’t hesitate to reach out to an eye care professional. They can provide expert advice and treatments such as prescribing steroids to help alleviate the discomfort and reduce inflamation.