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As smoke from the California wildfires spreads across the country, people are feeling the effects in their eyes, even those who live miles away from the hotspots. People who already suffer from eye conditions such as dry eyeblepharitis, or allergic conjunctivitis are especially susceptible to the burning and stinging eye pain that smoke can cause.

“Every single patient I’ve seen today [Aug. 9], almost without exception, has complained of stinging, burning, red eyes, and my eyes are feeling the same way,” said John Bosetti, MD, an ophthalmologist in Napa, Calif. His practice is located about 100 miles from the largest wildfire in California’s history.

Easing the discomfort

Dr. Bosetti offers some simple ways to get relief from the eye effects of smoke:

Burned landscape with scorched grass and trees and smoke rising into the sky
  • Over-the-counter artificial tears. Patients with underlying conditions already using artificial tears may want to double their application until the smoke dissipates.
  • Cool your eyes. Keeping artificial tears in the refrigerator is a great way to have something cool ready to rinse your eyes. Lying down with a cold compress over your eyes is also soothing.
  • Stay indoors.Particularly if you have an underlying condition that makes you more sensitive to the smoke, such as dry eye, it’s best to close the windows and stay indoors as much as possible.
  • Wear glasses or goggles. Specialty goggles that are often prescribed to patients with dry eye can be a great option for anyone experiencing sensitivity to smoke in the air. And close-fitting glasses or sunglasses will provide at least some barrier that slows the stream of air going into your eyes.
  • Improve your indoor air with an air filter.

See your doctor

If your symptoms persist after trying these at-home remedies, see your ophthalmologist, who may be able to prescribe a more aggressive treatment to get you through until the smoke clears.

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What To Do When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

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