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Between trying new foods, staying out late, drinking too many margaritas, and crashing on those fluffy hotel pillows, it’s totally understandable that many of us put a ‘pause’ on worrying about health while we travel.

After-all, travel is supposed to be an escape!

But just because you’re spending time in the sun and maybe eating a bit too much doesn’t mean all health needs to go out the window!

As you find yourself taking more adventurous risks, and spending more time outside, one area of health you shouldn’t neglect are your eyes.

Whether that be with a cap or polarized prescription sunglasses, it’s important to care for your sight when you travel. And that’s exactly what you’ll learn to do from this guide.

How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy While Traveling

Why It’s Important to Care For Your Eyes

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In day to day life, we work in a routine that can feel pretty standard and safe. We may have all of our medications and saline solutions at home, medications when allergies hit, and glasses at the ready.

But, most importantly, our eyes are familiar with our home environment, and have adapted to sufficiently cope with the conditions.

Travel has a way of putting us in environments that can be harsh on the eyes whether it be a beach escape, snow skiing vacation, or high altitude mountain trek. And if you’re not properly equipped, you can do real damage.

For instance, you may be traveling on a desert adventure where you’re more likely to come in contact with dust and wind. Or, you may be trekking in high altitudes where your eyes become really dry.

The most common condition however among travelers is sunburn of the eyes – it’s a real thing, and it’s painful

Our eyes are particularly susceptible to sun damage, especially light-colored eyes. Long hours in the sun or around the reflecting rays off a lake, beach, or the pavement during a road trip can all lead to some nasty eye complications.

Vision loss, cataracts, eye cancers, and even blindness can be repercussions of not wearing eye protection. Even if you’re traveling on a winter getaway, you should travel with proper eye protection, as snow blindness is also thing (and it sucks!!!)

How To Take Care of Your Eyes

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It’s actually very easy to take care of your eyes when you travel, and it largely comes down to packing a few basics you probably already have at home, and researching what you’ll need for the specific environment you’re visiting.

But it’s also important to listen to your body while you’re traveling, and pay attention to the signs of common symptoms of eye trouble.

Dry-eye is the most common problem among air travelers, and the sleep deprivation that comes with long haul travel can cause heavy eyelids and strain, redness, difficulty focusing, blurry vision and increased sensitivity to light.

You need to take any symptoms you come up against seriously, and resolve the issue instead of trying to push through it which may cause more long lasting damage. If your eyes are irritated or painful it’s because they’re trying to recover from something!

While certain environments will require additional gear or equipment, like perhaps goggles if you’re spending time underwater, a ski mask if you’re spending time in the snow, etc, for the most part, the following supplies will do you just fine.

Travel With a Billed or Brimmed Hat

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One of the biggest culprits of eye strain is the sun. Whether you’re vacationing on a tropical beach somewhere or exploring snowy landscapes, one of the first defenses against the sun is a billed cap which covers your face.

This can provide your eyes with plenty of shade, while also protecting your scalp from sunburn.

Buy Polarized Sunglasses

A cap will adequately protect your eyes from the sunlight beaming down from above, but what about when you’re looking directly into the sun, or protection from the sun which bounces up?

Wait, what? Bounces up?

UV radiation is reflected from light surfaces on the ground, and because snow and water in particular reflect up to 80 percent of the UV light from the sun, it means you’re often being hit by the same rays twice.

The glare from a light surface when aimed at your eyes is also a lot more intense, as typical sunlight from above is scattered, where-as the light which bounces up off a surface is directly concentrated on your face.

Protect your eyes against the glare which reflects off light surfaces with polarized sunglasses. These block out intense light reflection and glare, improving both comfort and visibility.

Polarized sunglasses are glasses that have been specifically designed to reduce the glare from surfaces like water, snow, and glass. They have a special filter in the lens that acts like a blind, only allowing some of the reflected light to pass through so it’s not so intense on your eyes.

For those who are nearsighted or farsighted, it can be difficult to go about your day without prescription glasses. Luckily there are prescription polarized sunglasses you can get too.

There are many different qualities of polarized sunglasses. Typically cheaper pairs will provide a lower quality of protection, while more expensive pairs will provide a higher level of protection. Essentially, you get what you pay for.

Pack Moisturizing Eye Drops

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As mentioned, with recycled plane air and new weather, it’s common for your eyes to become a bit dry.

Having a small bottle of eye drops on you can help make sure you always have a clear vision. This can also come in handy if your allergies begin to act up or if you are in a particularly dusty or windy location.

Minimize Contact Lenses Wear

Travel presents an environment that isn’t the most ideal place for wearing your contacts, so if you can minimize your contact lens wear and opt for glasses instead, you may find it easier on your eyes.

While your daily routine may see you diligently remembering to take out your contacts before you go to bed, it’s easy to forget this step when travelling, especially when you’re on a plane. And falling asleep while wearing contacts is never a good idea.

This can lead to severe eye irritation and potential damage to your eyes like getting microscopic tears in your cornea. The last thing you want is a problem with your eyes at 30,000 feet with hours before you are scheduled to land.

But there’s also the potential hygiene challenges.

Traveling (and planes) isn’t always the most sanitary experience, and you don’t want to introduce any germs or viruses into your system through touching your eyes.

If you do need to change contacts, avoid using the plane bathroom despite it having a mirror. It’s even less sanitary in the bathroom and any turbulence could see you dropping a lens down the sink or worse yet on the bathroom floor.

Health officials also warn that using regular water for cleaning and storing contacts could lead to serious eye infections and other diseases, especially while travelling in regions with unsafe tap water.

Prepare for Allergies

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If you’re traveling and start experiencing symptoms of eye trouble, consider whether it could be due to allergies.

Even if you’re not allergic at home, when you’re traveling, you may be exposed to different types of irritants that may cause an allergic reaction; things like pollen, pollution, and animals are the most common.

Instead of rubbing your eyes or suffering through the sniffles, be sure to bring some good non-drowsy allergy medication that can allow you to enjoy the rest of your trip. Not only will this help keep your eyes healthy, but it can help ensure your overall health so you can make the most out of your time.

Travel With Hand Sanitizer

Studies have found that people touch their faces more than 16 times in an hour, and we touch our faces so often that there’s a very high risk of contaminating our hands between having washed them.

Your eyes and mouth are areas where viruses can easily enter your body, and if you’re traveling and you’ve picked up foreign bacteria, or you haven’t had the same sort of access to soap and washing facilities as you would back home, you put your eye health in danger.

Travel with your own hand sanitizers so you can disinfect your hands when a sink is not readily available or convenient to use. This will greatly reduce the risk of infection when you rub your eyes.

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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