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Holiday health advice to protect sight and hearing

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Whether you are having a summer staycation or planning on visiting another country on the green list, it is important you’re looking after your health to ensure you can enjoy your break.

That is why Specsavers chief audiologist, Gordon Harrison, and clinical services director, Giles Edmonds, are sharing advice on how to stop your holiday being ruined by common sight and hearing problems.


When flying to a new destination dry eyes can often become a problem. The temperature and pressure-controlled plane cabin can easily dehydrate you, which only makes dry eyes worse. Applying some eye drops is a good idea to help with lubrication.

Air pressure changes can also cause ears to ‘pop’ which can often cause severe pain and hearing loss. Gordon explains: ‘The popping sensation is a result of a difference in pressure between the inner ear and the outside environment causing the ear drum to swell outward or be sucked inward (depending on whether pressure is rising or falling). This only becomes a problem when pressure changes quickly, so pressure inside and outside the ear don’t have time to equalise, for instance during take-off and landing.

‘A simple solution to the pain, popping and muffled hearing associated with changes in pressure is to introduce as much air as possible to the ear via swallowing or yawning. Sucking on a hard boiled sweet, chewing gum or drinking through a straw during take-off and landing all help. To avoid as much discomfort as possible it is also recommended that you don’t sleep during take-off or landing and stay hydrated.’

Wear sunglasses

UV rays can damage our vision as well as our skin, warns Giles. ‘Prolonged UV exposure has been linked to cataracts, macular degeneration, and even some types of eye cancer. Sunglasses are not just fashion accessories – It’s particularly important that you wear a good pair that offer high levels of UV protection.

‘Sunglasses don’t need to be expensive but they should always conform to agreed safety standards. Look out for a CE (European Community Standard), BSEN1836 (British Standard) or UV400 markings and aim for a pair that offer 80 percent light reduction.’

Apply SPF

When we’re out in the sun we’ll often apply sun cream to parts of our bodies which are exposed, however we may often forget our ears and eyelids. Gordon says: ‘Our ears are one of the most sun-exposed parts of our bodies so it is so important we protect them from the harmful effects of UV rays. Take care when applying sun cream to coat all the exposed surfaces and the nooks and crannies. Wearing a wide brimmed hat can also help too.’

Giles adds: ‘The skin on our eyelids is extremely thin and can burn very easily – especially if you doze off while sunbathing. Make sure you use a cream which is suitable for the delicate and sensitive area and take care when applying so as not to get any lotion in your eye.’

Irritants in the eye

If you do get sun cream or a foreign body in the eye, such as a grain of sand, it is important you know what to do so as not to cause any damage.

Giles says: ‘As with any chemicals, if you get lotion in your eye you need to irrigate and flush your eye out with water. Tilt your head to the side so the water runs across your eye to your ear as you don’t want anything to potentially transfer into your other eye.’

Giles adds: ‘With a foreign object in the eye, although it is extremely uncomfortable it is important to remain calm as the more you blink, the more damage you could be causing. Try to flush it out, and if needs be use your eyelashes to lift the eyelid off the surface of your eye while you do so. See your optician who can swab to remove the foreign body and, depending on the type of injury, use drops or ointment to help prevent infection. Lubrication of the eye with a gel or ointment can help with comfort during recovery and may be recommended for up to three months to prevent a recurrence of the scratch.’

Stop swimmer’s ear

If you’re cooling off in the sea or at the pool it is essential to care for your ears. Gordon says: ‘For most, a little water in their ears won’t be a problem but extra care should be taken for those susceptible to ear infections or swimmer’s ear.

‘Swimmer’s ear is an inflammation of the external ear canal that can often lead to an infection. It occurs when water becomes trapped in the ear, most often as a result of swimming. The best way to avoid it is to wear ear plugs and always steer clear of polluted or dirty water to avoid infection.’

Never wear contacts in water

Giles warns: ‘Do not wear your contact lenses while swimming as there is a risk of serious infection if you wear them in a pool or the sea. It’s important to always wash your hands with non-cosmetic soap before handling contact lenses, never to use tap water to rinse them, and never to put contact lenses in your mouth. Microorganisms can also be found in distilled water, risking infection or sight damage.’ Prescription swimming goggles are a good alternative.

To find out more about the safety measures in stores or to book an appointment visit: www.specsavers.co.uk

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