Smog is one type of outdoor air pollution that can cause particular problems for people with existing health problems, including chest, lung or heart complaints. Outdoor air pollution could be responsible for 3.3 million premature deaths across the globe every year, according to recent research published in the scientific journal, Nature.
While most of us try to keep ourselves fit and healthy, we tend to forget one of our most vital body parts - our eyes. The increasing level of pollutants as an effect of the smog, can cause various eye conditions like eye irritation, blurred vision, conjunctivitis and severe allergies. Redness, itching, burning sensation and unclear vision are some of the common symptoms which we have to struggle with.
What is smog?
Smog is a dense layer of stagnant air which forms near ground level when air pollution is high. It is more common in built-up cities with dense traffic or in areas near industry with high emissions. This harmful substance is created when sunlight reacts with gases, such as industrial emissions or car exhaust fumes, in the lower atmosphere. The high-pressure warm weather systems that we get on hot days tend to be slow moving, so they trap the polluted air at a low level in the atmosphere. But, although smog is associated with summer, winter smog can also occur. Cold foggy days are a particular problem as harmful gases can get trapped near the ground.
Smog is made up mainly of ozone but it also contains other harmful substances, such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and PM10s (small molecules which can find their way deep into our lungs). Ozone, which protects our skin from harmful UV rays when it’s high in the atmosphere, can be harmful and cause irritating health effects when it’s nearer the ground.
How can you protect yourself from smog?
If you have respiratory issues that are affected by smog and air pollution – or simply want to protect yourself or your children from the potential health effects – here are some practical tips to help you:
1. Wash your eyes with cold water, when you are back from outdoors
2. Blink often to refresh your eyes, especially during computer work
3. Wear large size sunglasses when outdoors, for better protection from pollution
4. Avoid rubbing your eyes, if tiny pollutants enter
5. Place cucumbers on your eyes and rest, to help reduce inflammation
6. Use lubricating eye drops recommended by specialists as a daily eye-care regimen
7. Self medication is a strict no
8. Most important of all, eat a healthy diet rich in omega-3 fatty acid including lots of carrots, green leafy vegetables, almonds, walnuts, papaya, berries, fish etc. which are extremely good for the eyes
Lastly, for overall well-being, optimal vision care, and as a precautionary measure, it would be ideal to avoid exposure to pollution. Areas which are heavily industrialized should be avoided. One can choose to close the windows of their car during peak traffic hours to prevent further damage. In case of prolonged eye infections/allergies, visit a specialist and undergo a thorough eye check-up.
This post originally appeared on AXA Healthcare.