Every year during the holidays, a substantial rise in home accidents is reported. “Head injuries, eye traumas, broken bones, and more,” says Dr. Paul Pepe, chairman of emergency medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. However, “If everyone would just take an extra moment to think before doing a task, there would be far fewer injuries,” says Brian Kuglich of The National Safety Council. Therefore, take a moment now to consider ways to prevent the holiday accidents most likely to cause eye injuries to both adults and children.
For millions of Americans, a festive Christmas tree symbolizes the holidays. However, decorating a tree becomes risky when an unsteady stand meets a wobbly ladder. Have a partner hold the ladder to prevent a forward fall into the tree, a face-full of pokey pine needles and branches, and a potentially painful eye injury. Also, when untying your tree, remember to wear eye protection because long branches can burst out unexpectedly, severely scratching your eyes and face. Children should always be made to stand a safe distance away when a fresh tree is untied as well.
Other injuries to small children can be prevented by avoiding sharp or breakable decorations. Curious about these shiny items, children don’t understand how delicately they must be handled. Use caution as well when decorating with spun-glass “angel hair” and bubble-lights because these too can cause serious injury if shards of broken glass or hot liquid enters a child’s eyes.
Sporting equipment is a very popular holiday gift, but is often given without the proper safety accessories. In fact, almost 20% of all eye injuries around the holidays are caused by propulsion toys, such as BB guns, pellet guns, paint ball guns, slingshots, etc. It is critical that any gift in this category be given to an especially mature child who is old enough to use it safely and who is also given the proper eye protection in addition to the gift.
An old and beloved custom in many cultures during the holidays is fireworks. In Hawaii, fireworks are used to ring in the New Year, while Nicaraguans set off fireworks as part of their Christmas celebration. In the Polish culture, people attend winter sleigh parties complete with dancing and fireworks; and in the Muslim tradition, Eid is often celebrated with displays of fireworks.
It is safest to attend only professional fireworks displays. However, if fireworks are used at home, they should only be used by an adult wearing protective safety glasses, in a secure area, far enough away from family and friends to prevent injury. In fact, nearly half of all fireworks-related eye injuries are suffered by innocent bystanders. Additionally, almost 20% of fireworks-related injuries affect the eyes, and the majority occur in children under the age of 16 who are unaware of the potential dangers of fireworks.
Eye injuries can be prevented when celebrating with fireworks by taking a few simple precautions:
- Do not point sparklers at others. Though often considered “safe” fireworks, sparklers are actually responsible for the greatest number of fireworks injuries. Most of these are minor burns, but sparklers burn at 1800 degrees Fahrenheit — high enough to cause third degree burns.
- Always wear safety glasses when shooting off fireworks. Never place bottle rockets in tin cans or glass bottles, as these can explode, showering fragments of glass or metal in all directions like shrapnel. Bottle rockets can also tip over before launching, shooting off in dangerous directions where unsuspecting people or pets may be injured.
- Never allow young children to handle fireworks and keep them at a safe distance from all fireworks displays. Always provide close adult supervision when older children are using fireworks.
- Never purchase illegal fireworks. Fireworks bootleggers are more interested in profit than in safety. Do not use any fireworks that are unlabeled, or do not contain a manufacturer’s name, directions for use, or a required warning labels on the package.
- Do not attempt to make fireworks at home. Loading and combining explosive powders without professional training can cause serious injury or death.
If an eye injury does occur during the holidays (or any other time of year) DO NOT put pressure on the eye, and do not let the victim touch or rub their eye. Cover it loosely with a shield to protect it — a clean, small paper cup gently taped into place is often a good, quick solution — then call 911 or seek the help of an ophthalmologist immediately. Read Eye Emergencies: Do You Know What To Do? for more information.
This holiday season, have fun with your family and friends! Deck the halls and light the lights, but wear proper eye protection when necessary, and make your celebration a safe and healthy one.