Written by SMH Injury Prevention Coordinator Susan Williams
Did you know that each year, 125,000 eye injuries are caused by accidents with common household products? This includes thousands of children who sustain eye damage — and even blindness — in accidents at home, at play or in the car.
Yet, 90 percent of all eye injuries are preventable with proper safety gear, according to American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates.
With the exception of going to our regular eye-doctor visits and donning sunglasses to protect our peepers from UV rays, most of us rarely give much consideration to protecting the precious gift of sight at other times.
Here are a few easy ways you can keep those “baby blues” safe, plus what to do in the event of eye injury.
Eye Injury Prevention
The first rule of eye injury prevention is to don protective eyewear when performing any task that could be risky — whether it’s lawn work, using chemical cleaners or even opening a bottle of champagne. The second rule? Teach children and other loved ones to do the same.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) advises that every household should have at least one pair of ANSI-approved safety glasses or safety goggles on hand. (“ANSI-approved” means the protective eyewear meets American National Standards Institute safety standards.) Look for eyewear with “ANSI Z87.1” on the label.
Some common causes of eye injury include punches, chemical splashes from cleaners; fireworks and other flying objects like darts, BBs and bungee cords; blows from sports equipment; children running with sharp objects, such as pencils, coat hangers or scissors; and flying debris from explosions or industrial work.
Nearly half of all eye injuries happen at home, according to the AAO and the American Society of Ocular Trauma. Remember eye safety when:
- Cleaning with chemicals like bleach. Household cleaning products cause 125,000 eye injuries each year.
- Working on a car or other home improvement project. Power tools can send wood chips, screws, nails or other debris into the air and into your eyes.
- Celebrating with champagne. Chill your bubbly before you open it to reduce the likelihood of champagne cork injuries; those corks can leave the bottle fast enough to shatter glass and can cause bleeding, abrasions, even glaucoma, if they hit an eye.
- Doing yard work. Lawn mowers and other tools can throw dirt and debris into the air.
- Playing sports. Special safety goggles or glasses can help protect the eyes while playing hockey, basketball, baseball, shooting, racket ball and even cycling. Look for protective eyewear that meets ATSM standards. (The ATSM is a not-for-profit organization that sets the standards for eye protection in sports; adhering to their recommendations will help you “keep your eye on the ball.”)
- Using items like bungee cords or rubber bands. These can “snap” and cause eye injuries.
For more eye-injury prevention tips, click here to visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology website.
First-aid & Treating Eye Injuries
In an eye injury does occur, be sure to have it examined by an ophthalmologist, primary care doctor, school nurse or other medical doctor as soon as possible — even if it seems minor. Delaying medical attention can cause the damaged areas to worsen and could result in permanent vision loss or blindness, according to the AAO.
The AAO also warns against attempting to treat a serious eye injury yourself. While seeking medical care:
- Do not touch, rub or apply pressure to the eye.
- Do not try to remove any object stuck in the eye. For small debris, lift eye lid and ask child to blink rapidly to see if tears will flush out the particle; if not, close the eye and seek treatment.
- Do not apply ointment or medication to the eye.
- Gently cover a cut or puncture wound.
- Only in the event of chemical exposure, flush with plenty of water.
As the injury prevention coordinator for Sarasota Memorial's Trauma Services, Susan Williams, RN, BSN, serves as a critical link between the trauma team and the community it serves through education and outreach.