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Home, Dangerous Home?

Eye Injury

Most of us think of home as a place to relax and put our feet up—a safe and comfortable cocoon where the thought of a potential eye injury may never even cross our minds. Until it happens! With all of the outdoor play and yard work that summer brings—along with things you may never even have thought about—now is a good time to remind yourself and your family to play it safe.

Bill Barlow, MD, an ophthalmologist at the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah notes that "We tend to think of construction sites or paintball parties as places where we're likely to end up with an eye injury, but there are plenty of dangers lurking around our homes."

How Some People End Up as Patients

  • Chemicals in things like cleaning solvents can cause respiratory problems, and can be toxic to any mucous membranes, including the surface of the eye. And, they can splash in your eyes. Think bleach, ammonia, oven cleaner, toilet bowl cleaners, for instance. Use them only in areas with good ventilation, and if you think there's going to be splashing or spraying, be prepared with protective eyewear.
  • Frying with grease or oil? Just one splatter in the eye can cause a significant burn. Protective goggles can protect your eyes from burns and from the volatile oils in ingredients such as onions and hot peppers that can irritate sensitive eyes.
  • Mowing the lawn, trimming hedges, snapping branches, chopping wood, hammering on hard objects—all can result in creating high velocity projectiles from debri—basically little missiles aiming right for your eyes or at a bystander. Make it a habit to wear eye protection and to keep the kids at a safe distance.
  • Soft pellets from "Nerf Guns" might seem harmless, but when shot a high velocity, they can cause significant blunt trauma injury to the eyes. Again, protective eyewear is a great idea.
  • You've seen the videos online. Things can go very wrong with a curling iron—including poking or burning an eye. Of course you wouldn't wear protective eyewear while curling your hair, but don't rush it and, though you'd think people would know better—don't multi-task while wielding a burning hot metal rod.

What to Do if it Happens to You

"If you are struck by a high velocity object, get in to be seen by a trained ophthalmologist as soon as possible," advises Barlow. "Do NOT rub, pull, flush or rinse, as water could introduce infection. If it's a significant hit, take something like a paper cup, cut out the edge and just tape it gently over the eye to protect it from getting bumped."

What about a scratch to the eye? Maybe you can still open your eye, but it hurts? "In this case," says Barlow, "it's the same advice. Get evaluated by a trained ophthalmologist as soon as possible. There is the risk of developing an infection or other problems—especially if it's vegetable matter, like something that came out of the lawn. You will likely need treatment to avoid further injury or infection."

If you get chemicals in your eye, rinse and flush to neutralize the substance as much as possible, and as with any other injury, get into see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.