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Bay Area Wildfires: How to Protect your Eyes

While Bay Area residents become accustomed to wildfires every summer, the dark sky and orange sun on Wednesday morning was a immediate reminder for all that smoke can travel in the air for hundreds of miles.  The past weekend’s thunder storm and extreme heat wave created wildfires in the region.  Thanks to the fires the bay area is dealing with some of the worst air quality in years.  Even short term exposure to poor air quality may sting and irritate your eyes, so limiting your time outside is important says Dr. Danny Lin who is a renowned corneal specialist, surgeon and ophthalmologist.  With gusty winds, it’s natural for many people in San Francisco to experience smoke pollution, even if the fire is far away.  The eye doctors and surgeons at Pacific Eye Associates have some tips to help protect your eyes from the wildfire smoke.

Wildfire Smoke Particles

The smoke from wildfires is made up of tiny particles too tiny to be seen with the naked eye.  These little bits of particles are a mixture of gases and particulate matter.  What is particulate matter made of you might ask?  The particulate matter is made up of acids (nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, soil, and dust.  For example, if a wildfire burns through trees, grass, cars, and houses.  Then, these are bits of burnt materials are in the particulate matter in the air, thus damaging our eyes and lungs.

Smoke contains fine particles that can stay in the air for hundreds of miles. As climate change results in more wildfires, communities will be susceptible to the dangerous smoke. According to researchers at Harvard and Yale universities, over the coming decades, if wildfire and smoke continue annually residents of three Bay Area counties are at the highest risk of exposure to dangerous levels of pollution.

How to Protect your Eyes?

Most of the time eye irritations from smoke may be soothed with over the counter artificial eye drops.  If you wear contacts, try to ditch them for now and stick to eyeglasses.  When your at home, apply a cold towel or compresses to your eyes to help relieve itching and burning.  Also, try to remain indoors with the windows closed.  If your eyes become extremely irritated it may help to flush your eyes with eyes drops.

  1. Stay inside with windows and doors closed
  2. If possible, use a N95 mask
  3. Use artificial eye drops to flush out particles 
  4. Discontinue contact lenses and wear your eye glasses 
  5. Apply a cold towel or compresses to your eyes

Please contact us for an appointment if your eyes remain irritated for longer than a week.  Your vision is important and we are here to help!  Request an video or in-person appointment by visiting our website, www.pacificeye.com or call us at 415-923-3007.


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2100 Webster St, San Francisco, CA 94115