Keeping an eye on UV protection

Okotoks: Proper sunglasses as important as sunscreen

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Thursday, Aug 14, 2014 10:28 am

Dr. Asim Prasad from Okotoks Eyecare holds a pair of UV protection sunglasses.
Dr. Asim Prasad from Okotoks Eyecare holds a pair of UV protection sunglasses.

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During the hot summer months, most of us recognize the importance of sun protection and will lather on some sunscreen and throw a hat on before heading outdoors, but it’s not just your skin that needs protection. If you aren’t wearing the right sunglasses you could end up scorching your eyes in the summer rays too.

“When picking sunglasses, you have to pick glasses that say 100 per cent UVA and UVB protection,” said Dr. Asim Prasad of Okotoks Eyecare. Without the proper protection for your eyes, you can end up with the eye equivilant of a sunburn.

“Without UV protection, you can get some acute symptoms,” Prasad said. “You can develop almost like sunburn in your eyes, a form a Keratitis, which typically tends to resolve on its own but you'll get the early symptoms of scratchiness and sand-like sensation in your eyes.”

Aside from the temporary symptoms, long-term exposure can lead to more serious eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration, which can ultimately lead to blindness.

To be sure that you’ve got the right shades to take care of your corneas, Prasad said to keep an eye out for the UV protection sticker, as well as stick to stores that sell name brand gear – it may be more expensive but Prasad said you’re paying for more than just fashion.

“With the Ray-bans, the Maui Jims, Oakleys, those prominent names will have the proper UV protection,” he said. “If it's not a brand name then I would definitely be skeptical.”

Prasad adds that children tend to be the group who he considers to be the most under protected when it comes to UV rays, as parents often don’t buy their kids high quality sunglasses.

In fact, Calgary EMS public education officer Stuart Brideaux said in general, kids are most likely to suffer from sun over exposure.

“Younger children are the largest risk for heat exhaustion,” he said. “They’ll feel the effect much sooner because they don’t regulate their body temp as rigorously as adults can.”

He said the best way to avoid overexposure is by keeping kids, and adults, hydrated. Brideaux recommends drinking before your thirsty, as your body is using those fluids to cool off, and when you run out of them that’s when you begin suffering from heat stroke.

“What’s happening is your body can no longer tolerate heat at all,” he said. “Your body has no mechanisms left to cool itself and will tragically continue to get hotter.”

He said the easiest way to detect if someone has heatstroke is if they appear lethargic and are hot to the touch, but their skin is dry instead of sweaty. At that point it’s important to seek medical attention so that the victim can be rehydrated.

Although heat stroke is rare, Brideaux said heat exhaustion is much more common and can be very serious as well.

“Majority of the time when people are feeling the effects of sun exposure they’re feeling heat exhaustion which is much more treatable,” he said. “It feels flu like – nausea, vomiting, it’s a very unpleasant thing.”

To avoid over exposure, Brideaux recommends staying hydrated, wearing a wide brimmed hat and finding shade. And when it comes to sunscreen, applying it before you’re in the sun allows it to take full effect, and Brideux said regular reapplication is more important than having a high SPF in your sunscreen.

“50-30 SPF have the same effect. People just tend to under apply sunscreen, and they go outside too soon,” he said. “And a sunburn, even a less severe one is still considered a first degree burn.”


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