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    B.C. Optometrists offer tips for water-sport eye safety

    Vancouver, June 27, 2008 – B.C. optometrists remind swimmers, hot-tub and water-sport enthusiasts to take care of their eyes while enjoying water fun this summer.

    “Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean your eye health and safety practices can take a vacation,” says B.C. optometrist, Dr. John Kemp, who practises in the Okanagan, a Mecca for water lovers.

    The B.C. Association of Optometrists offers nine summer eye health and safety tips:

    1. Beware of strongly smelling chlorinated pools and hot-tubs. Correct levels of chlorine shouldn’t smell and don’t pose a health hazard. But if the level becomes too high, the over-chlorinated water can become acidic and cause many problems, including a burning sensation in your eyes.
    2. Wash your face with soapafter swimming to reduce the chance of getting an eye infection. Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is a swelling of the connective tissue inside the eyelids, and is often caused by bacteria and viruses. Symptoms include eye irritation, tearing, pain and redness. If you have pink eye, stay out of the pool or hot-tub until you get treatment and are fully recovered.
    3. Remove contacts before hot-tubbing and swimming or wear goggles over top to protect your eyes from water that is heavily chlorinated or contaminated with micro-organisms.
    4. Ensure your goggles fit properly. You should be able to tell by pressing them to your face without the straps on – if they don’t stay there for at least a second or two, they’re not right for you. With the straps on, they should fit snuggly and be comfortable.
    5. Consider prescription goggles, especially for children who are significantly near- or far-sighted. Children with heavy prescriptions can be timid around water or reluctant to take swimming lessons if they can’t see well while in the pool.
    6. Wear eyewear with UV protection if you’re in or around water outdoors. UV radiation damage to eyes is most common with sports on water or snow, where the effects of sunlight are also reflected. And prolonged exposure to UV rays from the sun can lead to cataracts.
    7. Wear protective goggles for high-risk sports, like water polo. Water sports are the third highest source of eye injuries, after basketball and baseball, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Swim goggles with polycarbonate lenses, which are strong and shatter-resistant, are considered the minimum protection for water polo.
    8. If you scuba dive, wear a corrective mask. For vision correction, your options include a pre-made prescription mask, a custom-made mask that allows a different prescription for each eye, or a mask with a removable prescription insert. If you wear contact lenses with a non-prescription mask, be aware some types of rigid or hard lenses may not fit the eyes properly and could either dig into the eyes or pop out.
    9. If you water ski and need vision correction, be sure to use it. You need to clearly see the boat, the spotter and any dangerous objects in the water. Prescription goggles are recommended because they are less likely to come off if you fall. And if they do, they float.

    Optometrists specialize in examining, diagnosing, treating, managing and preventing diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and related structures. Children need to have their eyes examined by six months, at three years, before school entry and regularly thereafter. Adults 19 to 64 should have an eye exam every two years. People with diabetes or age 65 or older should have an exam at least once a year. For more information on eye health, or to locate an optometrist near you, visit www.whatcouldbemoreimportant.com.

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    For more information contact: Mahafrine Petigara, media relations, 604.623.3007