Winter Sunday

December 19, 2017

  The nice thing about the summer sun is that it is kind enough to warn us that we are burning-good old infa-red rays. The silent danger of ultraviolet light, however, is that UVA (Ages), UVB (Burns) and UVC (Cancer) are potentially very dangerous, especially to the eyes. While many people hit the ski slopes well covered in skiwear, sunglasses and sunblock, how many of us just ignore the threat from that cold winter sun? Snow has been shown to reflect back more than 80% of UV radiation compared to 10-15% for the sea and beach. 

   Only 4% of adults wear sunscreen in winter and this increases the risk of the skin cancer, melanoma. For those likely to be exposed to high levels of UV at altitude, this should be an absolute priority. Even playing in the snow can be a significant risk given UV glare. 

  Many traffic accidents are related to low winter sun glare below the sun visor and reflecting off shiny roads. This is compounded by poorly maintained windscreens. If you are troubled by this glare and it will be worse if you have cataracts or corneal scars, have you got good quality sunglasses? Remember, photochromic lenses do not darken effectively behind a windscreen, although transitions "Xtractive" and Drivewear lenses are better. Ask your optician. 

  It is important to note that children are more vulnerable to sunlight than adults as their pupils are more dilated and the eye is very clear within. It should be a priority to protect the eyes of young children against strong sunlight to guard against damage which will persist into adulthood. 

   High factor suncream (>SF30) is needed and should be applied liberally to all exposed skin, reapplying every two hours especially if sweating. And of course hats and gloves!

   Good quality sunglasses like Oakley for outdoor activities and Ray-Ban for general wear provide comfortable and safe protection for the eyes against UV. UV400 is often seen stamped on sunspecs and is a good guide as they protect against rays as small as 400 nanometers, keeping anywhere between 99-100% of the sun's harmful radiation away from the eyes. Don't be confused by colours, mirror finishes, shapes etc. UV400 applies to a wide range of sunspec styles, so look out for the stamp. 

As always, if in doubt, ask your eye professional. 

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