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With the Fourth of July approaching and outdoor activities likely taking up much of your summer fun, it’s time to consider the importance of protecting your eyes. Eye injuries are largely preventable, but you need to be aware of risks and measures you can take to keep your eyes safe.
Five tips to help prevent eye injuries:
Leave fireworks to the pros
Unfortunately, I’ve seen many severe eye injuries from fireworks. And most of these injuries resulted in permanent damage or blindness. In fact, a lot of people even lose their eye or eyes from a fireworks accident.
The best method of eye injury prevention from fireworks is to leave these exploding wonders to the professionals. July 4 weekend offers many chances to see a well-orchestrated fireworks show from a safe distance. Take advantage of these opportunities rather than trying to conduct your own show.
If your family must have fireworks for the holidays, stick to sparklers, wear eye protection and make sure an adult supervises all activity.
Wear eye protection when at risk
Safety glasses go beyond handling fireworks. Whether you’re working a construction job, making home improvements or mowing the lawn, always don proper eye protection. Debris can easily get into your eyes and cause problems ranging from irritation to serious damage.
Additionally, put on protective eyewear when you’re playing certain sports — for example, racquetball and paintball. Always keep the eyewear on until the game is completely finished. Pulling glasses or goggles off early puts you at major risk for injury.
You should wear eye protection if you’re using bungee cords, which can also be very dangerous. Rope or straps are safer options for tethering items.
Use caution with chemicals and cleaners
Read the labels of cleaning supplies and other chemicals very carefully before using them. Don't mix products, and keep chemicals and sprays out of the reach of children.
Be careful when cooking or using hot objects
Use grease shields to prevent the splattering of hot grease or oil. Keep a safe distance from open flames. Avoid using a curling iron near your eyes.
Don’t let curiosity get the best of you
Never look directly at a firework, bottle cork, or other explosive or projectile device if it doesn’t go off as expected. Dispose of the object in question in a safe place rather than inspecting it closely or studying it with your face in harm’s way. These objects tend to discharge unexpectedly after a delay. Eyes are often damaged in the process.
Vision is an important function, and you don’t want to compromise your long-term eye health simply because it’s inconvenient to follow best practices. Remember to stay aware of your surroundings and risks, wear eye protection, and leave fireworks to qualified professionals. Doing so will help you have a safer, more enjoyable Fourth of July, summer and life.
Anna Kitzmann, M.D., is a Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont ophthalmologist.