Jul 01, 2014 1:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

From running with sparklers to getting over-ambitious with the weed whacker—summer activities can lead straight to the ER. Here are some tips for avoiding eye injuries in the great outdoors.

Fireworks lead to almost 10,000 ER visits each year, and eyes can be particularly vulnerable. According to a report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, most eye injuries come from sparklers, fountains, multiple tube devices, and Roman candles. For children under five years old, firecrackers and sparklers are the most common threats. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology advises keeping them away from kids—and kids away from them. “Fireworks are notoriously dangerous for severe eye injuries, even for bystanders at a professional display,” says Mary Elizabeth Hartnett, MD, an ophthalmologist with the University of Utah’s John A. Moran Eye Center. “I’ve had patients who were almost half a mile away from the display come in with injuries.”

Other common summer activities can also wreak havoc on unprotected eyes. “Anything that can hit an eye bluntly or penetrate the eye may cause serious injury,” says Hartnett. Just like a concussion causes brain damage, concussive force to the eye not only injures the eye itself but can also damage the connections between the eye and brain, disrupting the brain’s ability to interpret light and electrical messages as vision. Hartnett warns that ocular trauma can also cause problems with vision years after the initial injury, increasing the risk of conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and retinal detachment.

Hartnett gives these tips to protect yourself and your children from summer eye injuries:

  • Before starting any activity, think about the possibility for flying sharp or blunt objects and plan accordingly with quality protective eyewear.
  • Wear protective lenses for any sports that involve balls, fists, or missiles. Some sports may not seem like obvious risks, but eyes are often hit by the ball (paintball, racquetball, golf, soccer) or fingers and elbows (basketball, volleyball).
  • Keep children and infants away from chores that involve flying objects, including mowing the lawn, weed whacking, hammering, and chopping wood.
  • Be safe with fireworks. Do not let children play with them, view them from 500 feet away, and do not touch unexploded fireworks remains. Instead, notify the fire or police department.
  • Choose eyewear that doesn’t compromise vision. For example, wearing dark glasses while running in the woods may cause you to trip.  Don’t use glasses that splinter when they crack—it’s important to have a firm frame that does not bend with force.

Click here for more information on choosing appropriate protective eyewear.

vision eye injuries prevention

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