With temperatures topping 30oC for much of the past few weeks and Britain in the midst of the biggest heatwave since the long, hot summer of 1976, the nation is soaking up the sun – but at what cost to eye health?

As a country, we don’t handle extreme weather particularly well. Prolonged spells of summer sunshine remain something of a novelty and – before you can say ‘paddling pool’ – we’re out in our gardens without any semblance of protection from the UV rays above.

Despite repeated warnings of the damage prolonged exposure to the sun can do to our bodies, millions of people give short shrift to the idea of applying sun cream and, for many, sunglasses remain purely a fashion item rather than actual protection.

The volume of people walking down high streets with sunglasses perched on their heads while the sun burns brightly on their eyes is testimony to that.

But what can we, as eye health professionals, do to help stop this? How do we get the message out there that wearing sunglasses is a necessity, not a fashion choice?

We need to dispel the myth that wearing contact lenses, which offer a degree of UV protection, is enough. It’s not. They should always be worn in conjunction with good quality sunglasses to ensure maximum protection.

It’s imperative that contact lenses remain moist and, if necessary, wearers should use preservative-free artificial tears and make sure they don’t ‘over wear’ their lenses in hot weather.

Social media is an extremely effective vehicle for getting messages out to patients and I would urge all of you to use your channels to push the message of ‘staying safe in the sun’ in the weeks ahead.