Protecting your eyes from bushfire smoke

Protecting your eyes from bushfire smoke

Have your eyes been irritated by the recent increase in smoke from hazard reduction burns around Sydney?

Researchers in eye surface disease have put together some information on how to protect your eye surface from smoke-induced irritation.

The impact of bushfire smoke on the eyes 

While there is a wealth of information on the impact of smoke on the respiratory system, the ocular surface has received comparatively little attention. However, eye symptoms are among the most experienced during bushfire crises. 

“Smoke contains fine and coarse particles along with noxious gases that can wreak havoc on the delicate mechanics of the ocular surface. These particles can embed into the cornea, causing constant irritation, or they can deposit in the tear film, leading to allergy-like reactions that affect vision and disrupt daily tasks,” said Ms Sukanya Jaiswal, optometrist and PhD candidate at School of Optometry and Vision Science at University of New South Wales (UNSW). 

Education and preparation are key 

Suki and her team’s research through UNSW endeavours to provide early insights into preventative care measures that can protect our eyes during future bushfire crises. 

With a hotter than average summer predicted and the potential threat of another rampant bushfire season ahead of us, it's a crucial time for Aussies to be informed about bushfire smoke exposure and how to mitigate its impacts on the ocular surface.  

Persons with pre-existing eye surface disease such as dry eye disease or with pre-existing respiratory disease are warned to be especially alert and take precautions, as they have greater risk of eye problems with exposure to bushfire smoke. 

By staying vigilant about eye health during bushfire events, we can take steps to protect our vision and well-being in the face of these natural disasters. 

How to protect your eyes from bushfire smoke 

  1. Don’t rub your eyes – this will only worsen irritation and increase the risk of scratching the cornea, trigger an allergic reaction or spread additional irritants around the eye area
  2. Use non-preserved artificial tears regularly (you can find these over the counter at your local pharmacy) to keep eyes lubricated  
  3. Stay indoors and use air purifiers if available 
  4. If necessary, flush eyes with sterile saline (again, available at your local pharmacy) to keep them clean
  5. Wear tight fitting sunglasses when outdoors to minimise smoke exposure to the ocular surface
  6. See your optometrist if you have any concerns about your eye health or if symptoms persist; you can use our Find an Optometrist search tool to locate your nearest optometrist today 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *