Summer’s freedom brings so many health benefits—more daylight and more opportunity to move around outside, more variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, and enough outdoor events and gatherings to keep your calendar packed.

But with all the relaxed summer fun, one aspect of your health can easily get overlooked—your eyes. Taking the steps this summer to protect your eyes will pay off in the long run. Just as with many other body systems, accumulated damage eventually adds up and causes problems.

According to Prevent Blindness, taking some preventative steps now will protect your eye health years down the road. Get a good pair of sunglasses that protects from both UVA and UVB rays. And while so many worry about the wrinkles caused by squinting, it’s the potential for cataracts, macular degeneration, and even skin cancer and melanoma that can lead to debilitating vision loss that is the biggest health threat.

1. Protect Your Eyes in Surf and Sand

Eye protection is especially important in the summer not only because the sun is more intense, but just because there are more hours when you are out in it. Days at the beach require a good pair of shades (and a good hat helps protect your eyes, too).

Wearing sunglasses if you are floating around in any kind of water adds even more protection. While you’re in the water, your eyes need to be shielded from the bright reflections off the water as well as the sun shining from above.

2. Don’t Neglect Sunglasses on Short Trips

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It might seem like a hassle to bring sunglasses for short runs to the store or for quick walks around the park. If you aren’t going to be out long or if you’re just going to get sweaty and your sunglasses will slip off anyhow, why bother? It’s those short accumulated exposures that add up to much more damage than you would think. If you go out, pack a pair of sunglasses.

3. Be Cautious Around Fireworks

According to a US Consumer Product Safety Commission study in 2014, an average of 230 people went to US hospitals every day with injuries related to fireworks in the month surrounding July 4. There were 10,500 fireworks-related injuries that year. And while burns account for many injuries, the eyes are particularly vulnerable to flying parts of fireworks which contribute to the contusions, lacerations, and foreign bodies the study saw with eye injuries.

Fireworks are routinely implicated in eye injuries during the summer. But it’s not just the big booming fireworks that cause problems – it’s the smaller ones, too.  Those hand-held sparkers account for as many injuries as fireworks themselves. Your best bet is to leave the fireworks to the pros. If that’s not feasible, use eye protection and extra caution. And don’t let kids run around with sparklers or get anywhere close to the adults setting off the fireworks.

Be safe this summer and protect your eyes at every opportunity. Your vision is worth it.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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