Levels of toxic air pollution in Delhi and the surrounding areas are on the rise, and if experts are to be believed, the air we all are inhaling is laden with obnoxious gases and harmful pollutants. Some studies on the pollution have revealed that the air quality in NCR is as bad as smoking forty cigarettes in a day.
The most common reasons for this increase in air pollution include open burning of agricultural waste, fumes of transport vehicles and industrial waste which emit toxic pollutants in the air. In 2017, the government declared that pollution levels have reached a level of emergency, and are a potential health hazard.
Pollution affects almost every part of the body, and those who work outdoors, or play outdoors (especially children) are the worst affected. Specialized face masks may offer partial safety from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, but the eyes are exposed to all the harmful chemicals in the environment.
What is smog and how can it affect your health?
Smog is a dense layer of air which forms near the ground when air pollution is high. It is a common phenomenon in cities where traffic is high or areas near industries with high emissions. Smog is formed when sunlight reacts with the gases (car fumes/ industrial emissions) in the lower atmosphere. Some people are more sensitive to its effects than others including those with lung or heart complaints. The first signs of health problems caused due to smog are irritation in nose, throat, lungs, and eyes. In some cases, breathing and respiratory system can also be impacted
This extreme pollution in the form of smog affects our eyes, causing allergies and damage. Compromised quality of air contains harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and coarse dust particles which have to lead to more number of people complaining of red and watery eyes and various eye allergies.
The most common eye conditions caused due to air pollution/ smog are:
- Watery eyes
- Burning sensation or discomfort
- Sore eyes
- Itching sensation
- Dry eyes: characterized by dryness, gritty feeling, foreign body in the eye
- Eye allergy: characterized by itching, redness, discharge, eyelid swelling, blurring of vision and increased risk of infection
There are many steps to that can be of help to minimize the risk of infections. Let’s know what these are:
- The golden rule, of course, would be to avoid exposure to harmful pollutants. On days when the pollution levels are such that there is a public health warning, please stay indoors, especially in the early hours of the morning when the pollution levels are at their peak. In case you cannot avoid exposure to the environment and have to step out, make sure you wear protective eyeglasses which will minimize your exposure to the pollution causing agents.
- Wash your hands often and try not to touch your eyes
- Stay hydrated as it will aid in adequate tear formation. It becomes imperative when external factors such as smog increase your chances of dry eyes and eye irritation. Drinking eight to ten glasses of water will be a good choice.
- Have a healthy diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acid including lots of green leafy vegetables, carrots, spinach, almonds, walnuts, berries and fish which are extremely good for the eyes.
- Wear sunglasses when outdoors.
- Do not rub your eyes.
- Lubricate your eyes with eye drops; these are readily available over-the-counter. However, it’s important to get your eyes examined before using any eye drops.
- Avoid the excessive use of screen devices, including mobile phones and laptops. If essential, ensure adequate periods of rest to avoid eye fatigue, dry eyes, and computer vision syndrome.
- In case the irritation persists, you must visit your ophthalmologist for an evaluation. He or she will decide on a possible course of treatment to cure the problems affecting your eyes.
- Use of Contact Lenses: Avoid the use of contact lenses in case of any redness or discomfort in the eye, unless permitted to do so by your eye care professional. Protective glasses over contact lenses may be useful if the particulate matter index is high. In case you are wearing contact lenses and experience any discomfort, it’s prudent to take them off and use lubricating eye drops as an emergency measure, and quickly seek an appointment with your ophthalmologist. Before wearing the same lenses again, make sure they have been appropriately cleaned and have no scratches.
- Use of Eye Makeup: Avoid the use of eye makeup if eyes are feeling uncomfortable. Kajal and mascara often aggravate eye allergies and may cause infections also. You must choose a reputed, hypoallergenic brand to make you’re your eyes aren’t adversely affected by the chemicals in the makeup product. You must also remove all eye make before you sleep using a specialized eye makeup remover, to mitigate the ill effects of the chemicals.
Lastly, for our overall well-being and optimal vision care and as a precautionary measure to be taken in smoggy weather, we must avoid exposure to the pollution. Keep a note of the air quality index and avoid visiting the areas that are highly polluted. Keep the windows and doors of your homes closed during high pollution and try to stay indoors as much as you can. In case, of eye allergies or infections, visit a specialist without any delay and undergo a thorough eye check-up.