Dry eye can be uncomfortable and even painful, but traveling during the winter months can make symptoms significantly worse. If you are one of the more than five million Americans who suffer from dry eye, you may be dreading your upcoming holiday trip. Irritation from dry eye comes from a lack of lubrication, which exposes the nerves on the cornea. Therefore, any change in temperature, humidity or elevation can increase symptoms of redness, burning, itching and irritation.
Traveling can take a toll on the entire body, but eyes can be particularly sensitive. If you are traveling by plane, moisture-controlled cabins can have a drying effect on your eyes. Car travel can have its own drawbacks, especially if you use the vehicle’s heating system for the duration of your trip. And once you arrive at your destination, the environment at your hotel room or host’s home will expose your eyes to different conditions. While you cannot control all variables during your holiday travels, here are five tips to help keep dry eye from affecting your vision.
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can lead to decreased tear production. If you are dehydrated, it will be harder for your body to increase tear production when you are in a dry environment. On an airplane, humidity levels are usually below 20 percent, which is lower than the Sahara Desert! Drink plenty of water before, during and after your flight or car ride to keep your eyes moist and comfortable.
- Wear your glasses. Contact lenses can cause dry eye because they draw moisture from the surface tear film of your eye. Wearing your glasses can help keep the moisture in your eyes. Glasses also block air from blowing directly into your eyes.
- Use a humidifier. Consider purchasing a small travel humidifier that you can pack in a suitcase. You can also ask your hotel if they provide humidifiers for guests. If you need an emergency solution, turn the hotel shower to hot, close the door and let the bathroom fill with steam. Standing in the steam-filled room should help soothe your dry eye.
- Wear a sleep mask. Your eyes can lose moisture even when your eyelids are closed, often because the eyes are not fully closed when sleeping. Wearing a sleep mask in a hotel room or on an airplane can help prevent further dryness.
- Use rewetting drops. A quality rewetting drop can offer temporary relief when you are spending time in a dryer climate.
- Get a comprehensive eye exam. If dry eye is making you miserable, there is no reason to suffer in silence. Make an appointment with your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam to find out more about what is causing your dry eye. There may be a treatment that can provide the relief you have been seeking. (Source: Dry Eye and MGD).