When travelling, vision problems and eye discomfort can increase the challenges of navigating in a foreign city. But this is just one aspect.

Serious eye conditions can even lead to permanent damage to your eyes if not treated promptly and appropriately. But not to worry, there are simple steps you can take to ensure that your eyes are well taken care of while travelling.

7 Easy ways to protect your eyes during travels

1. Be prepared for potential eye problems when overseas

Air quality in planes and changes in climate can make our eyes dry, itchy and sore.

"(If you wear contact lenses) Switch to glasses during the flight, and always pack your contact lens case and solution in the carryon baggage. Bring eye drops for lubrication and to alleviate discomfort," advises Dr Chan Jin Hoe, Senior Consultant from Cataract & Comprehensive Ophthalmology Department at Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), a member of the SingHealth group.

Bringing along a portable humidifier or moisture chamber eye goggles can also help in situations that expose your eyes to excessive air conditioning.

Eye discomfort and itching can also be caused by allergies, which may be triggered by new environments. Equip yourself with over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops or tablets if you are prone to allergies.

Avoid areas where there is a lot of smoke, dust or pollen as it can worsen eye allergies. "Refrain from rubbing your eyes as this can increase discomfort. Cold compresses and lubricants can also soothe allergy-led eye discomfort," added Dr Chan.

2. Like practicing good hand hygiene is important, so is practicing good eyelid hygiene

"Even after a long day, make an effort to remove your make-up before sleeping, especially if you are wearing mascara and eyeliner. Keeping your eyelids clean will help prevent styes — a common inflammation or infection of the eyelid that causes a tender, red lump at the edge of the eyelid," says Dr Chan.

When oil glands in your eyelids are clogged by dirt or debris, a small collection of pus may form, and this results in the stye. Warm compresses and lid hygiene can help reduce swelling.

If a stye is persistent or worsens, consult a doctor for topical antibiotic ointments or to perform incision and drainage.

3. Use proper eyewear when outside

Choose sunglasses that shield your eyes from harmful UV rays and harsh glare, whether you are going to the beach, ski slopes or just going outside with the sun blasting. UV protection helps safeguard your eyes from common degenerative conditions such as cataract, pterygium and macular degeneration.

When picking a proper pair of sunglasses, look for:

  • Lightweight but sturdy wraparound frames,

  • UV protection, and

  • Polarised lenses

Wear glasses on a windy day to reduce evaporation of tears that can result in dry eyes. If you will be engaging in water activities, put on goggles to stop water from entering your eyes, as this would increase the risk of eye infections.

4. (If you wear contact lenses) Check them before your trip and pack a pair of glasses as backup

Before your vacation, check that the contact lenses and contact lens solution that you want to bring along with you have not expired. If you are using disposable lenses, pack extra pairs in case you lose them and bring your glasses as backup.

Change your contact lenses as and when needed, and avoid sleeping, bathing or swimming with them on. Store them only in contact lens solution as other liquids (such as tap water) may contain bacteria that can cause eye infections.

If you experience eye pain, redness or blurred vision while wearing contact lenses, remove them immediately and seek medical treatment.

You should avoid wearing contact lens for long-haul flights and opt for glasses from the start. Ensure that the air vents above your plane seat are not directly blowing at your eyes as constant temperature fluctuations and lack of humidity can lead to eye irritation.

5. Bring along your eye prescription details when overseas

It is better to be safe than sorry. By bringing your prescription details with you on your trip, you can have peace-of-mind knowing that in the event if you lose your contact lenses or break your glasses, you have the option of getting replacements.

If you use prescription eye drops, be sure to pack spare unopened bottles, as they may not be readily available in other countries.

6. Consult an ophthalmologist before your trip

If you have an existing eye condition or underwent eye surgery recently, seek an ophthalmologist’s opinion on whether you are fit for travel. For example, people who have had retinal detachment surgery may not be fit to fly.

7. Pay attention to any changes to your vision when overseas

Don’t wait until you get home to see an ophthalmologist if you have any acute eye symptoms.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment of rarer but serious problems (such as retinal detachment, acute glaucoma, serious eye infections or severe eye trauma) during your travels can avert permanent damage to the eyes.

If you experience symptoms such as severe eye pain, sudden loss of vision, and appearance of floaters and flashes, you should seek immediate medical attention, even when overseas.

Taking these simple precautions to care for your eyes before and during your travels, allows you to continue to enjoy more trips to come! Remember, don't hesitate to consult an eye doctor when overseas if you experience sudden vision changes. Wishing you and your loved ones safe travels!

Ref: I23

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