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October is Eye Injury Prevention Month

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By: Nina M. Taggart, MA, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Clinical Operations
October 9, 2012

Did you know that nearly half of all eye injuries each year happen at home? Even a minor injury to the cornea from a small particle of dust or debris can be painful and become a life-long issue. 

Here are just a few examples of common household activities that can cause an eye injury:

  • Using household chemicals or bleach:  Getting unexpectedly sprayed or splashed in the eye can cause anything from minor irritation to a chemical burn.  If this happens to you, immediately flush the eye by putting your head under a steady stream of room temperature tap water for 15 minutes.  Contact your eye doctor or urgent care facility to determine what is recommended as a next step based on the chemical. 
  • Hot grease or oil splatter: As with household chemicals, the most important thing to do is irrigate the eye and contact your eye doctor as soon as possible.
  • Drilling or hammering into walls: An activity as simple as hanging a picture can cause a nail or screw to become a projectile or cause fragments to fly off and cause an eye injury. Seek immediate medical help if you are hit in the eye with any foreign object.
  • Lawn and garden care: Always wear protective eyewear when mowing the grass, trimming hedges, cutting wood or using power tools.  Whether you use a ride-on or push mower, stop the engine when a child or any one approaches.  The mower can cause rocks and other objects on the lawn to become projectiles. 
  • Securing bicycles or other items to racks: Use caution with any objects that have the potential to snap back like bungee cords or rubber bands.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, an estimated 90 percent of eye injuries are preventable with the use of proper safety eyewear.  But only one-third of people report that they always wear protective eyewear when doing home projects or repairs. 

Do yourself and your family a favor and be sure you have at least one pair of ANSI-approved protective eyewear for use at home.  The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets the standard for safety glasses, requiring that they have side shields and are made of ultra-strong polycarbonate that can withstand a projectile traveling at 90 miles per hour.

You should also keep eye protection top of mind when participating in sports.  People often think of sprains and strains as sports-related problems, but eye injuries account for an estimated 100,000 physician visits each year for school-aged children.  Parents and coaches should ensure children are protecting their eyes when participating in baseball, basketball, hockey, indoor racket sports and cycling, to name a few. 

Sports aren’t the only way that children can cause damage to their eyes. Remember Ralphie from the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story” asking Santa for a Red Ryder BB gun?  And Santa’s dismayed response, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”  

Darts, paint ball guns and BB guns may seem like toys, but they all have the power to cause serious injuries including vision loss or blindness.  Be sure to have a discussion with your youngsters about how to use these items carefully and follow all safety instructions, including protective eyewear.

At Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, we know that protecting and maintaining your vision is an important part of your overall health. Here are a few reminders:

  • Use protective eyewear when doing projects at home, when working outside and for sports.
  • When you spend time outdoors, wear sunglasses that provide 97-100 percent UV protection.  
  • Make sure you and your family get regular eye check-ups and screenings.
  • If you have a chronic disease like diabetes, follow through on any physician recommendations related to eye care.

You only have one set of eyes – be proactive and protect the gift of sight.

Nina M. Taggart, MA, MD, MBA is Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Clinical Operations at Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania

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