Wildfire Smoke Can Be a Threat to Eyes

THE American Academy of Ophthalmology and the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons advise residents of Southern California who have been exposed to smoke from wildfires to be aware of the potential hazards to their eyes. Exposure to smoke can cause irritation, with symptoms such as burning sensations, redness and tearing.

"Even a healthy person's eyes can be bothered by prolonged exposure to smoke," said Robert N. Weinreb M.D., Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of California San Diego and clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "Exposure to smoke can also exacerbate symptoms for some patients, particularly those with Dry Eye syndrome."

Over-the-counter artificial tears can provide relief from smoke-related irritation. If symptoms persist for longer than several days, you should consult your ophthalmologist.

One hazard to people's eyes can linger even after the smoke is gone. Barely visible ash and dust can remain in fire-devastated areas for up to two weeks after fires have been extinguished. Many firefighters recommend using protective eyewear while in these areas, especially when moving objects that may be coated with ash or fine dust.

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