With reports of deteriorating air quality in Delhi, most of us are concerned about its deleterious effect on our body. The eyes are especially vulnerable to the hazardous effects of pollutants resulting in eye problems like dryness, burning, itchy and watering and eye allergies. These are most commonly seen among school going children, since they spend a lot of time outdoors.You must, therefore, be careful to protect your own, and your child's eyes, from Delhi's toxic air.
What are the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air on your child’s eyes?
Harmful pollutants including noxious gases, fumes, and suspended particulate matter can damage the delicate outer surface of the eyes, since it remains exposed to their deleterious effects. These include:
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Eye irritation: which can range from mild redness to extreme discomfort
Dry eye: which presents as sore, dry, red eyes with a foreign body or “sand in eyes” sensation
Eye allergies: which manifest as allergic conjunctivitis, with itchy, scratchy eyes, which are red and watering
Severe eye emergencies like chemical burns can result from acute exposure to harmful air pollutants
Chronic exposure, though not seen in the younger age group, can predispose to tumors and neoplasia of the ocular surface, especially in the elderly.
How can you protect your child's eyes from Delhi's toxic air?
Remember, prevention is better than cure. Make sure children do not spend too much time outside when the air quality is poor, and the Government advisory mentions high air pollution levels. Consider using sunglasses with appropriate UV protection to help protect eyes not only from harmful UV rays, but also from exposure to dust and harmful particulate matter in the polluted air.
Tell your child not to rub their eyes even if there is irritation of eyes. Ask him or her to blink frequently and rapidly to protect the eyes from the ill effects of Delhi's toxic air.
In case of excessive, persistent irritation of eyes, or in case of particulate matter in the eye, help your child to gently wash his or her eyes with clean, drinking water. Avoid splashing of water in eyes as it can result in injuries. Wash your eyes with cold water, when back from school or outdoors.
In case irritation persists, or if there are dust particles in eyes, do not attempt to remove them, but seek an eye doctors help immediately. In fact, any redness or discomfort in the eyes that persists must be seen by an ophthalmologist to safeguard eye health.
You may instill preservative free, lubricating eye drops which are available with chemists without a prescription. You may also ask your doctor to recommend these eye drops.
Avoid self-medication and also be very wary of steroid drops prescribed by chemists. These can have serious side effects.
Consider using air purifiers with HEPA filters and humidifiers to protect your child’s eyes and lungs from Delhi’s toxic air.
Make sure children have a healthy, balanced diet, which is rich in antioxidants, micro nutrients and omega 3 fatty acids as they help in combating the ill effects of air pollution by fighting against free radicals.