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Snow Blindness

 

Snow blindness is the effect that glare from an ice field or snowfield has on the eyes. It is more likely to occur in hazy, cloudy weather than when the sun is shining. Glare from the sun will cause an individual to instinctively protect his eyes. However, in cloudy weather, he may be overconfident and expose his eyes longer than when the threat is more obvious. He may also neglect precautions such as the use of protective eyewear. Waiting until discomfort (pain) is felt before using protective eyewear is dangerous because a deep burn of the eyes may already have occurred.

Signs / Symptoms:
Symptoms of snow blindness are a sensation of grit in the eyes with pain in and over the eyes, made worse by eyeball movement. Other signs/symptoms are watering, redness, headache, and increased pain on exposure to light. The same condition that causes snow blindness can cause snow burn of skin, lips, and eyelids.

Treatment:
First aid measures consist of blindfolding or covering the eyes with dark cloth which stops painful eye movement. Complete rest is desirable. If further exposure to light is not preventable, the eyes should be protected with dark bandages or the darkest glasses available.

Prevention:
When protective eye wear is not available, an emergency pair can be made from a piece of wood or cardboard cut and shaped to the width of the face. Cut slits for the eyes and attach strings to hold the improvised glasses in place. Slits are made at the point of vision to allow just enough space to see and reduce the risk of injury. Blackening the eyelids and face around the eyes absorbs some of the harmful rays.

 

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