Warmer temperatures and recreation are an opportunity to talk fun, sun and protective eyewear.

Help patients play it safe outdoors this summer

These days, as temperatures rise and the outdoors become our playgrounds, people are participating in sports and recreational activities. That's certainly true in Portland, Oregon, where Doug Melzer, O.D., practices.

"I am always aware of the important balance between having fun and keeping my eyes healthy."

Like many other Portland-area residents, Dr. Melzer enjoys the outdoors. A water-sports enthusiast, Dr. Melzer has engaged in recreation in pools, lakes, rivers and seas. He kayaks and rafts. He water-skis, wakeboards and scuba dives.

"At a time when diabetes continues to be on the rise, one of the best things we can do is encourage patients to take care of their eyes by taking care of the health of their bodies at-large," Dr. Melzer says. "For the safety and well-being of the whole patient, we should encourage patients to put down that tablet, laptop or phone, go outside for a while, and enjoy some fun, outdoor recreation."

Indeed, patients should enjoy the outdoors-safely, Dr. Melzer adds. June is National Safety Month, an opportunity for doctors of optometry to talk with patients about putting on proper protective eyewear this summer.

"I am always aware of the important balance between having fun and keeping my eyes healthy," Dr. Melzer says.

Unfun in the sun
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at the number of injuries from sports and recreational activities in the U.S. between 2011 and 2014. An average of 8.6 million injury episodes were reported. Half were treated in a setting other than an emergency room.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also tracks injuries and deaths associated with various activities. Among their reports:

  • In 2015, an estimated 97,200 injuries from all-terrain vehicles sent people to emergency rooms.
  • Between 2010 and 2015, there were about 500 reports of injuries related to tents including assembly and disassembly, and tripping on stakes and other tent parts.
  • In 2013, most injured bicyclists sustained injuries to limbs, based on estimates of hospital emergency rooms. One in 6 cases involved injuries to the head, including concussions.

Patient conversations
Dr. Melzer urges patients to follow his own advice for outdoor activities, plan ahead and wear protective eyewear, whether it's for mowing the grass, swimming at the public pool or hiking in nature.

His tips for conversations with patients:

  • When in and on the water, patients can protect their eyes by shedding their glasses and moving to contact lenses or goggles. "The high incidence of micro-organisms in water sources requires that, for proper eye safety," Dr. Melzer says. "I always wear a daily disposable contact lens that is promptly removed and disposed of after the activity." Access related AOA resources here and CDC resources here.
  • Encourage patients to remember to wear the proper correction when doing recreational activities. "It's amazing how many patients will tolerate some blur in routine activities," Dr. Melzer says. "Many may choose not to wear their corrective lenses for recreational activities such as driving a motorcycle, a dirt bike quad or even a bicycle. Safely performing these visually demanding activities requires the use of best-corrected vision. Additionally, this is a prime opportunity to promote corrective sun lenses and frame designs that provide a better wrap and protection of the eye." Helmets also are recommended.
  • Wear shades to protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays. "Statistics I have heard are that roughly between 40-50 percent of the UV exposure we get takes place before the age of 20. Few parents are excited about buying UV-protective eyewear and sun wear-that may be quickly lost or broken-for their young children. It can be a perfect time to remind parents that the decisions that they make for their children have long-term implications."

After sustaining eye injuries from outdoor activities, many patients will likely head first to their local emergency rooms. Still, Dr. Melzer says, doctors of optometry have a role to play in following up on patients' care and educating them about how exercise and diet contribute to their overall health, and also their options when it comes to protective eye wear.

"The onus is on the patient's routine eye care provider to help prepare them for the potential risks," Dr. Melzer says.

Read more about why protective eyewear matters in the April 2016 issue of AOA Focus . Access related AOA resources here and CDC resources here.

June 12, 2017

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