It’s December! We had our first snowfall, the last autumn leaves have fallen, and festive lights and inflatable reindeer guide our commutes home. At our house, my daughter was excited to help decorate our Christmas tree, and our cat, Pretzel, has rediscovered his love for ornament-batting.

I love this time of year. But the holidays are stressful, and we are especially prone to illness during these colder months. Here are five tips to keep your eyes healthy this holiday season.

1.     Use humidifiers: Hot air keeps us warm in the winter but dries out our skin and eyes. Luckily, humidifiers can help. Check to see if your HVAC unit has a water tank to add humidified air centrally through your home, and make sure it is turned on for winter. Standalone humidifier units can supplement individual rooms. Place these in your bedroom and your office if you work from home. Read the instructions on your humidifier to ensure you clean it appropriately to prevent mold build-up. And filtered water works best so you don’t clog up the humidifier with calcium and other elements. And if you still have dry eyes in the humidified air, lubricate with preservative-free artificial tears.

2.     Remove your contacts: Shopping, decorating, hosting family, traveling: December is full of activities that alter our normal schedules. However, it is still imperative to maintain good contact lens hygiene in these exciting, chaotic times. Remember to remove your contacts before bedtime – even before those light snoozes on the couch! Sleeping in contacts is the single greatest risk factor for a sight-threatening corneal infection. If you want to ditch your contacts altogether, schedule a free consultation at Corsini Laser Eye Center to discover if you are a candidate for SMILE, LASIK, or PRK.

3.     Wash your hands: This should be a no-brainer, but it bears repeating. Viruses can spread by skin-to-skin contact, and frequent hand washing is the most essential step to prevent the spread of illness. Conjunctivitis is a common symptom of many a “holiday germ,” so hand washing can protect your eyes, too. Here is an interesting corollary: the most crucial factor in infection prevention in cataract surgery is not using antibiotics or sterile drapes (although both steps are very important). Rather, it is the cleansing of the patient’s eyelids and ocular surface with an antiseptic (usually iodine-based). You don’t need medical-grade antiseptic for your hands, just good old-fashioned soap and water.

4.     Defend against pink eye: Nothing ruins a holiday gathering like an outbreak of pink eye! “Pink eye” is a colloquial term for conjunctivitis or inflammation of the white part of your eyes and inner eyelids. The most common offenders are viruses, which also like to party this time of year. Check out our pink eye posts from @corsinilasereye to learn more about the prevention and treatment of pink eye and when you should see an eye doctor for your symptoms.

5.     Wear eye protection: What better way to protect your eyes than…protection? This means sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays and wraparound safety goggles that protect your eyes from projectiles. Using the nail gun to build your manger this year? Eye-Pro! Plowing your driveway with the snow blower? Eye-Pro! Shredding down the mountain in your new skis? You guessed it – Eye-Pro! And ski goggles perform double duty, protecting your eyes against ultraviolet rays and projectiles. But contacts and glasses can complicate the use of Eye-Pro, which I detailed in my post, “The Top Ten Times I’m Thankful I Had Eye Surgery.” Check out our Laser Vision Savings Calculator to see if glasses- and contact-free vision is in your budget this year.

Eat, drink, be merry, and keep your eyes healthy. Happy holidays from our family to yours!

Jonathan Corsini, MD