Thousands of people across the UK risk damage to their health and sight this summer by lack of hygiene while on camping holidays this summer, warn health experts at Optical Express
With the British weather seeing an unprecedented and extended heatwave, Brits of all ages are flocking to campsites for their annual vacation and to soak up the most of the sun’s rays. While camping is a great experience for many, it can mean that hygiene is compromised and is not always upheld to the usual standard when at home.
Stephen Hannan, Clinical Services Director at Optical Express, said: “Camping may be one of the favourite Great British holidays for families and couples, but in fact, campsites are a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, which can not only be damaging to our health but have detrimental effects on our sight too.
A lack of eye health hygiene at a campsite can lead to common eye infections, such as conjunctivitis or an infectious keratitis (infection of the cornea). Contact lens wearers are especially susceptible as there is regular contact between your eyes and hands. Speak to your optometrist about using daily disposable lenses, as these will mean you don’t need to clean them after each use, instead moving on to use a completely new lens. However, if using monthly lenses, always bring two storage containers and never leave them to soak in water. Always use appropriate contact lens solutions as recommended by your optometrist and remember to wash your hands appropriately before touching your eyes.
When camping, the weather is usually a little unpredictable. Scorched dry grass and sea winds whip up sand particles, sending these into our eyes, which can result in the eye turning red and the cornea swelling. Rubbing the eye can exacerbate the minor scratch, which usually causes itchy sensation and form a deeper scratch on the eye.
The pollen count generally increases as the temperature rises, which can irritate our eyes, particularly when hiking and camping. At a campsite, access to running water can be limited and harmful bacteria can build up on your hands, whilst rubbing your eyes can aggravate them, causing them to get bloodshot and can result in a common eye infection. Always bring antihistamines and eye drops to a festival to minimise the effects of allergies. An optometrist can advise on appropriate management.
When we go on holiday or for a mini-break, it’s natural to indulge a little more than usual. However, consuming large quantities of alcohol can not only dehydrate your body, but cause irritation and result in dry eye, which is where the eye does not produce enough moisture to protect the iris and remain comfortable. Alcohol can also lead to blurred vision as it causes the eye lens to swell, reducing your inability to see.
Top tips to keep your eyes protected:
- UV 400 protection
Often when camping, you are outdoors for a prolonged period of time, which means it’s important to choose the right pair of sunglasses. We’d recommend always trying and choosing a pair that offers UV 400 protection, as this can eliminate 97-100 per cent of UV rays.
Even if you are wearing sunglasses that are tinted, there are options available that offer no UV protection and can damage your eyes more than not wearing your sunglasses. Tinted lenses can trick the pupils into dilating, allowing more UV light to enter the eye, without offering protection.
- Remove contact lenses
As tempting as it is to leave your lenses in place, it can be very damaging for your eyes to wear them for a longer period than recommended. Although contact lenses are designed to let your eyes breathe, leaving them in for long periods can leave your eyes dehydrated and tired. As an alternative to contact lenses you could consider Laser Eye Surgery, To find out more visit a refractive surgery provider such as Optical Express to understand if you are a candidate for procedures such as LASIK.
- Ensure you have clean hands
Although it’s common practice, clean hands are vital when touching your eyes or using any form of lenses, but when you are camping it can be difficult to get access to fresh running water. When sat around a campfire smoke can irritate your eyes, leading you to rub them. We always recommend washing and drying your hands thoroughly before handling your eyes or lenses, but an alternative is to use anti-bacterial hand gel before attempting to use them.
- Stay hydrated
It’s important to stay hydrated when you go camping, as many choose to go hiking and forget to top up with water. However, dehydration can cause eye irritation, particularly for those wearing contact lenses. We’d recommend bringing some eye drops or lens drops, which can soothe irritated eyes. Being exposed to sunlight for a long period can result in sunstroke, so it’s vital to drink at least eight glasses of water a day at your campsite.
Camping is a great way to spend time with friends and family, however, it’s important to be protected in order to enjoy your break to the fullest and be safe. However, if you have any concerns about your health, look for a local GP or walk-in clinic where you will be able to seek medical advice. If you have any concerns about your sight following your break, book an appointment with your optometrist at your earliest opportunity.