Dry eye is a common condition that occurs when your eyes don’t make enough tears or the tears being made are of poor quality. Tears give eyes the moisture and lubrication they need to wash away anything that could damage them, such as bacteria, pollen, or dust.
When the parts of your eye that create tears are damaged or don’t work properly, it can disrupt the makeup of your tears. This can lead to chronic dry eye.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), common symptoms of chronic dry eye include:
- stinging or burning
- itchiness or grittiness
- stringy mucus around the eye
- blurry vision, especially when reading
- sensitivity to light
Some people are more likely to develop chronic dry eye than others, including older adults and women, according to the American Optometric Association.
The weather and the environment can both affect symptoms of chronic dry eye. In fact, a
Chronic dry eye symptoms are known to be affected by many different factors, including:
- fans or vents
- air pollution
All these factors change with the seasons, which means you may experience seasonal changes in your symptoms.
In the United States, dry eye symptoms are highest in the winter and spring and lowest in the summer. This observation is based on data from more than 3 million visits to an eye care center, according to the
The summertime lull in dry eye symptoms may have to do with warmer, more humid air. This air helps keep your eyes moist.
It could also be because people generally spend more time outdoors during the summer months and less time looking at screens. Staring at a computer or television for too long can cause dry eyes.
While summer may provide some natural relief from symptoms of chronic dry eye, there are also many potential summertime triggers you should be aware of.
Humidity and air conditioning
While it’s true that weather and humidity levels outside are generally better for chronic dry eye in summer, don’t forget about the environment inside your home, car, or office. These are other places where you might spend a lot of time.
In many of these spots, you might turn on an air conditioner. However, air conditioners remove moisture from the air, which can worsen symptoms of chronic dry eye. This is because a moderate amount of moisture in the air can help keep your eyes hydrated.
If you spend a lot of time in your car or sit next to a vent, the dry air blowing directly in your eyes can make dry eyes worse, like windy conditions during the winter.
Water is the main part of tears and of your eyes overall. It plays a key role in keeping your eyes healthy.
Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your eye health, according to the AAO.
High temperatures and humidity during the summer months can increase your likelihood of dehydration. Dehydration means your body has less water available for tear formation. A
Wildfire smoke and air pollution
If you have dry eyes, you may be more sensitive to smoke from campfires or wildfires.
Smoke and other types of air pollution can harm eye health and make symptoms of chronic dry eye worse. This happens because wildfires and pollution increase the amount of toxins in the air, such as carbon monoxide and particulate matter — and this can cause eye irritation and pain.
In one small 2008 study, researchers looked at how a series of wildfires in Argentina affected people’s eyes. The researchers found that exposure to wildfire smoke increased dry eye symptoms, particularly for people with chronic dry eye.
Another study published in 2021 found that in a group of 9,765 women, dry eye syndrome was more common in those who were exposed to more air pollution. No men were included in the study.
The chemicals and debris found in smoke and air pollution may do more than irritate your eyes. They can actually damage your eye’s surface.
People with chronic dry eye may be especially vulnerable to this damage because their eyes produce fewer tears. This makes it harder to flush out irritating materials.
Swimming pools and chlorine
Many people look forward to cooling off in the pool on hot summer days. If you have chronic dry eye, though, it’s worth taking a few precautions.
Chemicals used in swimming pools, such as chlorine, can irritate the tear film on your eyes. This is the layer of tears that protects the eye.
Chlorine can cause the water in this film to evaporate, leaving your eyes dry and vulnerable to irritation and infection.
To reduce the effects of chlorine and other pool chemicals, the AAO recommends that you:
- use eye drops before and after swimming
- always wear goggles
- wash your eyes with fresh, cold water after swimming
- remove contact lenses before swimming
Having chronic dry eye doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the pleasures of summer.
To reduce symptoms and protect your eye health, consider these tips for managing chronic dry eye in the summer:
- Stay hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water, especially during very hot days or after physical activity. Setting an alarm on your phone or writing yourself a note may help you remember to drink.
- Use a humidifier indoors. A humidifier can help replace some of the moisture lost due to air conditioning.
- Adjust air conditioning vents so they don’t point directly at you. Avoid sitting directly under or near air conditioning units that blow dry air. And don’t forget about the vents in your car.
- Wear eye protection. Wear goggles when swimming. Sunglasses are also a must to help protect your eyes from the damaging rays of the sun. A pair of sunglasses with a wraparound frame can help provide additional protection from the wind as well as the sun.
Summer can be a time of relief if you have chronic dry eye, but it’s not without its own unique triggers.
By being aware of how summer can affect chronic dry eye, you can take some simple steps to help manage and prevent symptoms.
If you continue to experience dry eye, connect with an eye doctor to discuss other options for managing your symptoms.