It is possible to get dry eyes from a fan, especially if a person has a fan angled toward their face for long periods. However, there are several ways to prevent and treat dry eyes.
Constant air circulation can dry tears from the eyes too rapidly, leaving the eyes with less moisture. This can be uncomfortable.
When using a fan, angling it away from the face, wearing eye masks at night, and adding moisture to the air may help ease dry eyes.
This article will cover how fans cause eye dryness and how to prevent this from happening. It will also explain what else can cause dry eyes and ways to soothe this symptom.
Yes – any device that circulates air can potentially dry the eyes. This means all kinds of fans, including air conditioners and ceiling fans, could dry the eyes.
This is because wind evaporates the natural moisture on the eye’s surface. When this happens too quickly, it causes dryness. The eyes may feel scratchy or irritated and look red or bloodshot.
The effect of fans on the eyes will be more intense if the fan is directed toward the face, but any air circulation in a room could cause a similar effect to varying degrees.
Having temporarily dry eyes due to an environmental cause, such as a fan, differs from the medical condition known as dry eye. Dry eye occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears to keep them lubricated, or the tears they produce do not work as they should.
Anyone can experience temporarily dry eyes from using a fan. However, the effects of using fans or air conditioning may be more problematic for those with dry eye.
Learn more about dry eye.
There are benefits and downsides to sleeping with a fan on. As well as keeping a person cool, some people find the sound of a fan helps with concentration or falling asleep. The air circulation can also make the air in a room feel fresher.
However, constantly circulating air can be drying to various parts of the body, including the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Dryness of the nose and throat can cause the body to produce more mucus, leading to congestion.
People may need to weigh the benefits and downsides of keeping their fans on at night. Using a fan at night may be beneficial overall during a temporary heatwave because any side effects it causes may go away once a person no longer needs the fan.
However, using a fan every night could result in longer-term discomfort. In that case, it may be necessary to find alternative ways of cooling the room or adjusting how a person uses their fan.
Doctors may recommend people with the medical condition dry eye avoid using fans wherever possible.
Others can try a few ways to prevent fans from causing eye dryness, such as:
- Changing the fan setting: It may help to angle the fan away from the face. On a ceiling fan, a person may activate the reverse switch. People can also try using an oscillating fan or putting the fan on the lowest comfortable setting.
- Using eyewear: People may find that wearing wraparound glasses or sunglasses offers some protection against the drying effects of a fan. At night, eye masks may help.
- Adding humidity: To reduce the dryness of the air, people may find it helpful to use a humidifier to add moisture back into the room. Alternatively, people can add moisture by placing a bowl of water in front of a fan, drying laundry indoors, or leaving the bathroom door open when taking a shower or bath.
People can soothe the symptoms of dry eyes by:
- Blinking regularly: Blinking helps lubricate the eyes. It is especially important to blink enough when reading or using screens and to take regular breaks. When working at a desk, it may help to position computer screens slightly below the line of sight, as this will mean the eyelids cover more of the eye while using the screen.
- Applying compresses: Placing a warm compress on the eyelid can help release oil in the glands there, improving tear quality and reducing dryness.
- Using eye drops or mists: People can purchase artificial tears or hydrating eye drops to ease the symptoms of dry eyes. Applying face or eye mists on the eyelids can also increase moisture. Mists can also be cooling, which may feel pleasant in hot weather.
- Staying hydrated: Drinking enough water helps the eyes produce tears. It is particularly important to drink enough during hot weather.
Doctors may also be able to prescribe medical treatments for people with dry eye, such as drops to reduce inflammation.
Learn about the latest treatments for dry eye.
In addition to fans, many other factors can contribute to eye dryness.
It may be helpful to consider other potential causes,
- living in windy, dry areas or places with high levels of air pollution
- smoking or having frequent exposure to smoke
- looking at screens or reading for long periods
- exposure to hot air, such as from hair dryers
- having previously had laser eye surgery, as this can sometimes reduce tear production
- taking certain medications for the following conditions:
If eye dryness persists even without the use of fans or these other factors, a person may have an underlying condition that requires treatment. For example, the following can cause dry eye:
Eye dryness may improve when a person stops using a fan or adjusts how they use it. However, if the symptoms persist or worsen, it is best to speak with a doctor.
It is also important to contact a doctor under any circumstances if eye dryness or irritation occurs with:
Eye health resources
Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on eye health.
It is possible to get dry eyes from a fan or other devices that circulate air, such as air conditioners and hair dryers. In many cases, though, this is a temporary symptom that goes away when a person stops using these devices.
People can try adjusting a fan’s angle, intensity, or oscillation to reduce its impact on the eyes. Adding moisture to the air or wearing protective glasses may also help.
Compresses, eye drops, and mists can reduce eye irritation and dryness. If these do not help with symptoms or a person needs to use a fan long-term, they may need to speak with a doctor.