Ever been outside on a sunny day after a snowfall? When the sun’s UV rays reflect off the surface of the bright white snow, it can be more than just annoying. These reflected rays can literally burn the surface of your eyeball, just like a summer sunburn will blister your skin.

This is called snow blindness (or photokeratitis if you want to get technical). Snow blindness can happen even with a light snowfall, so knowing what to look out for is important if you want to keep your eyes healthy in the winter.

How To Prevent Snow Blindness

If you expect to be around snow while the sun is shining, wear sunglasses! This is the easiest way to prevent damage to your eyes. If you plan on heavy outdoor winter activity (like snowmobiling, skiing or hiking), consider winter sporting goggles with darker lenses that fully wrap your field of view.

Symptoms

Snow blindness symptoms can appear right away or hours after exposure to the sun’s reflected light.

  • Red or bloodshot eyes
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Sharp or dull pain in your eyes
  • Burning sensation
  • Active tearing
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision
  • Swelling

You may even feel like there is debris in your eye. Don’t try to rub it out though! The blistering can get worse with contact.

How Long Will It Last?

The symptoms of snow blindness can last for a day or two, depending on how exposed your eyes were. Pain can be reduced with medicine, but the eye will generally heal itself on its own.

What To Do If You Have Snow Blindness

  1. Don’t rub your eyes! This will make the pain worse (imagine rubbing your skin after a sunburn).
  2. If you’re still outside around snow, throw on some sunglasses or squint and find your way indoors.
  3. Remove contact lenses if you wear them.
  4. Take an oral pain reliever and hold a clean, cold cloth over your closed eyes.
  5. Take it easy for a while. Let your eyes heal as much as possible while closed.
  6. See your eye doctor. To make sure there is no lasting damage to your cornea and parts of your eye, make an appointment with an optometrist.

Originally posted 2018-11-06 14:47:59.