‘Tis the season for eye safety!

By: Caroline N. DeBenedictis, M.D.

The holidays are upon us again!  It can be a wonderful time to gather friends and family to celebrate.  There are a few easy ways to support eye safety during the holiday season.  Prevention is the best strategy to avoid eye injuries and trauma.  At ReFocus, we hope you have a happy and safe holiday season!

Open champagne bottles in a safe way this holiday season!

Popping the bubbly is a common way to celebrate the holidays.  Carbon dioxide gas is dissolved in champagne.  Most of this gas escapes when the bottle is opened, meaning the cork can be released as a projectile object, reaching speeds of up to 50mph!.  Direct injury to the eye can cause severe irreversible problems including vision loss, bleeding, glaucoma, retinal detachment, or loss of the eye.  However, there are a few easy ways to open the bottle safely and prevent eye injuries this holiday season.

  1. Always store champagne chilled. Lower temperatures decrease the amount of gas lost upon opening, preventing flat champagne, as well as decreasing the speed of the cork upon release.
  2. Do not shake the champagne bottle before opening. This increases the loss of gas bubbles in your champagne, causing higher speeds of cork release, as well as less bubbles in your drink where you want them.
  3. Do not point the top of a champagne bottle towards people (or your own eyes) when opening. A 45-degree angle pointed away from people is ideal.
  4. Remove the foil and wire coverings. Place a towel over the cork.  Turn the bottle base while pushing down on the cork. Make sure to hold the cork firmly.  Do this until you feel the pressure push the cork out naturally.

What to do if there is an eye injury? Seek immediate medical evaluation from an ophthalmologist to assess the extent of injury.  Nights and weekends, head to the emergency room where the doctors can evaluate the injuries and facilitate ophthalmologic care.

 

Eye safety and cooking

Hot grease, splatter, bubbles all can splash into the eye and cause chemical and thermal burns.  Consider pan shields for dishes that splatter at high temperatures.  If an injury does occur, immediately flush the eye with cool water.  This functions to remove any particles or chemicals, and cools down any thermal injuries.  For mild injuries try over the counter artificial tears to soothe and flush the eye.  Do not use visine or “red eye” drops.  If there is an obvious, serious injury, significant pain, swelling, redness, or change in vision, seek an eye evaluation immediately.

 

Spices, peppers, onions all can cause eye irritation and burning.  Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after cooking to remove the irritant causing oils from your hands. Use care not to touch your eyes while using these ingredients.   Turning on the fan in your stove or opening windows can decrease the chemicals wafting through the air.  For onions, refrigerate for a few minutes before chopping which will temporarily decrease the irritant in the air.  If any ingredients do make their way into your eye, flush with cold water and use artificial tears as needed for discomfort. Any significant pain or symptoms should be evaluated by an eye specialist.

 

Scissors

If gift wrapping is in your future, you will have scissors lying around more than normal.  Eye injury with sharp objects such as scissors is a common cause of eye trauma among children under the age of 10.  Safety starts with placing sharp objects out of your child’s reach each time after using.  For older children, it is the ideal time to teach them about scissor safety.  They should not run with scissors and avoid walking with scissors unless necessary.  If they must carry them, teach them to hold the blade end with the blade firmly closed.  Equally important, remember to teach children always cut with scissors (or open boxes) in a direction away from your face or other people.  This safety tip is valuable for adults as well as children.

 

Gift giving the eye safe way

Toys or activities that include sharp objects, exploding materials, or projectile parts can cause serious injury to the eye.  When giving gifts that pose a risk of eye injury, to also buy the appropriate protective eye wear.  Many science experiments for children come with eye protection included.  Remember to look at the product information to check that this is the case.  If not, it is a good idea to purchase goggles or eye protection and give them with your gift.

Nerf guns, bb guns, or any toy that propels objects in a projectile fashion pose significant risk to the eyes.  For those that remember the old movie line “you’ll shoot your eye out”, this is a real worry for ophthalmologists.  It is absolutely essential to give eye protection along with any of these gifts, and parents or caregivers should enforce a strict rule that these toys are not to be used without eye protection.

Many parents ask if blue light glasses would make a good gift given the amount of screen time children experience now.  Save your money and skip the blue light glasses.  There is no research to support or suggest that blue light from screens damage the eyes. Blue light glasses are not harmful to the eyes but have not been shown to help with problems caused by screen time.  For safe screen habits see our article, “What every parent should know about the effects of screen time on vision”.

 

If you or your child experience an eye injury, it is important to see an eye specialist for a complete exam.