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Backpacker Magazine – November 2009

Protect Your Vision in the Backcountry

Here's how to prevent–and treat–three common backcountry eye problems.

by: Jeremy Joslin MD, Illustrations by Supercorn


Dirt In Your Eye | Scraped Eye | Red and Itchy

Problem Two days into a trip, your eye turns red, itchy, and starts discharging pus.

Treatment If symptoms are merely irritating–not painful–it's okay to finish your trip and check with a doctor when you return. Just be careful not to spread the infection; disinfect hands frequently, and don't share snacks. But if you experience vision changes, thick discharge, swelling, fever, and/or chills, hike out and see a doctor; you might have a more serious infection, such as bacterial conjunctivitis.

Prevention Simple camp hygiene protects from most illnesses, including eye infections: Always clean hands with soap or an antibacterial gel before cooking and after toilet stops. Contact wearers should remove lenses every night and store them in fresh cleaning solution. In the morning, let contact cases air-dry thoroughly. Even easier: Opt for extended-wear contacts, which can be left in for up to seven days and nights in a pinch.



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