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Should You Wear Safety Goggles to Clean Your Bathroom Mirror?

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Should You Wear Safety Goggles to Clean Your Bathroom Mirror?

Oct 28, 2014

Many eye injuries occur in the home. From chemicals to weed trimmers, eye protection is an important consideration. Dr. Bill Barlow from Moran Eye Center discusses home eye safety and what to do if an accident does occur.

Episode Transcript

Announcer: Medical news and research from University of Utah physicians and specialists you can use for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Interviewer: When it comes to things that could be a threat to your eyes, a lot of people don't think of things around the home as a possibility, like construction sites, sure; and maybe athletic events, yes. But around the home there are a lot of dangers to your eyes, and we're going to find out how you can make sure you and your family are safe. We're with Dr. Bill Barlow. He's an ophthalmologist at the Moran Eye Center.
The home is an unlikely place, at least that people think eye injuries can happen, and nothing could be further from the truth. Tell me about that.

Dr. Barlow: When people were surveyed, just a general survey about where they were likely to have an eye injury, less than half of them mentioned the home as a possible place for an eye injury to occur.

Interviewer: Where are the places people think they are happening then?

Dr. Barlow: Well they think they're happening; I'm a construction worker at my worksite, and specific places like that, or paintball.

Interviewer: Sure, yeah.

Dr. Barlow: Gun ranges, things like that, things when they're thinking about risk of injury, and not just eye injury, but other types of injuries.

Interviewer: But home doesn't really cross people's minds, so they get a little lax I'd imagine?

Dr. Barlow: Yeah, home is a place where you take your shoes off, kick your feet up, and you're there to relax, it's safe, it's a comfortable place. You're not thinking of a place that you're comfortable in as a place with potential dangers lurking, so to speak.

Interviewer: Yeah. So what has been your experience with the types of eye injuries that happen around the home?

Dr. Barlow: Eye injuries that happen around the home include exposure to chemicals, cleaning chemicals, making sure that people have good ventilation or eye protection to avoid being exposed to those. People who like to cook, especially with grease or oil that can sometimes splatter and splash up into the eye causing significant burns.

Interviewer: Really? Wow.

Dr. Barlow: People who use curling irons, or other types of heated devices to do their hair or other things that they get around their eyes and their faces, inadvertently will strike the eye and that can cause a burn or a serious injury to the eye.

Interviewer: I guess I never thought about that; that things hot. How hot are those things, 400 or 500 degrees, probably, huh?

Dr. Barlow: I don't know the exact temperature, but yeah, high enough to create a significant burn in a very short period of time.

Interviewer: Yeah, if you make one misstep.

Dr. Barlow: Exactly.

Interviewer: Wow.

Dr. Barlow: So it's important to be thinking of these different things, for children, different toys can become projectile objects very easily if they throw them or things like Nerf Guns where they shoot these soft bullets. But when they're shot at a very high velocity they can cause significant blunt trauma injury to the eyes. So it's important that you're thinking about these things and making sure that your kids are aware of that.
Outdoor activities, such as mowing the lawn, trimming the lawn, anything that's loose debris can become a high projectile, essentially a missile if you will if it's picked up and flipped up towards either the person who's doing the activity, or an innocent observer. So it's important to wear eye protection when you're doing those higher risk activities at home.

Interviewer: I wear glasses; does that qualify as eye protection, or should I have something else?

Dr. Barlow: It's important to have something that wraps around and doesn't leave a lot of open space. So if you wear glasses, getting something that would go over them that wraps around that is ANSI certified. That's A-N, as in Nancy, S-I; that's an acronym for the American National Standards Institute. They have set specific standards based on testing to provide adequate protection in these situations.

Interviewer: All right, so out in the yard, that was one thing that came to mind. Another is I do some woodworking, and I generally wear eye protection, and then I'd imagine you'd really recommend that?

Dr. Barlow: Absolutely, you're hammering on things, especially on hard objects, something happens and you didn't recognize something underneath that wood. You hammer on that nail and it can flip up and become a high velocity missile and again, can strike the eye and cause significant injury, or obviously soft tissue injury to other parts. So it's important to be wearing protection.

Interviewer: What are some of the less common threats around the home that somebody should be aware of that they might not have considered?

Dr. Barlow: Things to think about in terms of less common threats are loose rugs, or sharp edges to furniture, especially if you have children or elderly individuals in the home. They are more likely to become unbalanced, slip and fall. If they hit their face or their eye on one of those objects it can cause a serious injury to the eye. So either creating some way to soften the blow with soft padding on those sharp edges, or tacking down loose rugs so they are not easily tripped over; that can be very important, and it's not something that many people think about.

Interviewer: We talked about some precautions wearing proper eye protection that's certified. Inside, if I'm using cleaners and I'm cleaning the bathroom mirror, do I need to be wearing goggles?

Dr. Barlow: You may not need to wear goggles, but make sure you read the label and know how you're supposed to use that substance and in some cases they may want good ventilation. And some people like to mix chemicals or mix cleansers, and make sure you're not mixing those.

Interviewer: More than just getting it in your eye, the fumes...

Dr. Barlow: Yeah, the fumes can be toxic to any mucous membranes, and the surface of the eyes is a mucous membrane.

Interviewer: Oh, I never think of that.

Dr. Barlow: Also the mouth, and the lungs.

Interviewer: Right.

Dr. Barlow: So if you're inhaling those substances it can be very damaging to those mucous membranes as well. Really avoiding getting them in the eye by wearing eye protection is important. But reading the label and making sure that you're being safe in the way that you're using it and following the directions that they've provided to make it safe.

Interviewer: What should I do if something does happen; say I do get something in my eye? You mentioned a bunch of different scenarios; chemicals, or something that hits the eye. Is it all kind of the same, or are there different procedures?

Dr. Barlow: If you're getting chemicals in the eye, the first and foremost thing to do is to flush the eye, and then you think you're done, to flush it some more. And that's to neutralize any acidic or non-neutral ph substance as quickly as possible to minimize the extent of injury.

Interviewer: Okay.

Dr. Barlow: With other things, of course, if you're struck by a high velocity object it's getting in to be seen by a trained ophthalmologist as soon as possible to have that evaluated and look for any significant injury and have that treated as appropriate based on the injury. Those things require medical attention and evaluation. Obviously the exposure to chemicals does as well, but rinsing and flushing the eye is the first thing you want to do and have somebody else call to make the appointment or make arrangements to get you seen on an emergency basis. But flush the eye and flush it some more to neutralize any non-neutral ph substance that has gotten into the eye.

Interviewer: What about, like you said, trauma or a scratch to the eye? Is there anything I should do other than just call somebody and get in?

Dr. Barlow: In those cases if it's significant trauma, we recommend you take something like a paper cup, cut out the edge and just tape it over the eye to protect it from getting bumped by anything else. That would be the only other thing that I would recommend, and again, it's getting in to be seen to evaluate the eye for injury and determine if it's a blunt injury or a sharp injury and what treatment is needed to try and recover the injury.

Interviewer: What's the threshold though; say I get whacked by something in the eye and it hurts, but I can open my eye, and I can still see. Do I still need to come in?

Dr. Barlow: I would recommend it. If you've been hit by something that's high velocity, you have an irritation, even just a corneal abrasion, there is the risk of developing an infection or other problem associated with that; making sure, particularly if it's vegetable matter, like something that came out of the lawn, there's a little bit higher risk of infection, making sure there are no signs of that, and making sure treatment is instituted to avoid or prevent injury and infection.

Interviewer: So when it comes to your eyes, better safe than sorry.

Dr. Barlow: Better safe than sorry, exactly.

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