Mother knows best when it comes to preventing eye injuries

Remember your mom telling you to quit running with those scissors in your hands? Well, she really knew what she was talking about. Scissors and many other everyday objects are notorious for harming eyes. At least 1 million Americans injure their eyes each year, making such injuries among the most common of all traumas seen in emergency rooms. And according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, about 90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented. The key is to be aware of what types of objects and situations have the potential to cause injury and to exercise caution.

Seeing is believing...even mundane toys and other objects can cause serious or irreversible damage to the eye. Ophthalmologists at the Emory Eye Center have compiled the following list of objects that have made their way into people's eyes:

* Bent paper clips shot into students' eyes via rubber bands

* A guitar string that was overly tightened and "popped"

* False fingernail glue, a very common irritant

* Mentholated sports gel, squirted into a person's eye when squeezed from a tube

* A match tip that flew into a mother's eye as she lit a birthday cake candle

* A push pin, when a child fell into a wall

* BBs, which usually result in a loss of most or all vision

Keep your eyes open, too, for the following objects, which have the potential to land you or someone you know in the emergency room: tree and bush branches, which can scratch the cornea; debris kicked up from lawn mowers and leaf blowers; mascara wands, especially when makeup is applied while driving a car; pencils and pens (and scissors) carried by small, running children; and rubber darts, giant squirt guns, racquetballs, umbrellas and car battery acid.

Ted Wojno, associate professor of ophthalmology at the School of Medicine, is an expert in replacing eyes damaged by trauma with lifelike artificial implants that move normally, but cannot see. To prevent eye injury or blindness, he offers the following prevention tips:

* Get over aversions to safety glasses. "Dozens of my patients wish they had been wearing eye protection before their injuries," Wojno said. Children should wear safety glasses while playing sports such as softball; anyone involved in woodworking, lawn mowing or operating a leaf blower, changing or charging an auto battery, or working with any chemicals that might splash or emit fumes toward the eyes should wear protective glasses or goggles.

* Collect stones, twigs and other potential projectiles before mowing the lawn.

* Direct spray nozzles, tubes of liquid, and hoses away from the face.

* Keep BB guns away from children.

Despite all the precautions you take, you may still find yourself with an injury. Consider the following "dos" and "don'ts":

* Do lift the upper lid away from the eyeball and "wipe" or pull it over the eye's outer cornea to catch irritants in the lower lashes.

* Don't rub. You may further scratch the cornea.

* Do wash the eye with clean water, if necessary, when a chemical causes irritation or when a small particle remains after trying to wipe it out with the upper lid.

* Don't wash the eye if the injury is a stab or is severe; call 911 or get to an emergency room immediately.

* Do seek medical attention if you cannot remove the object or relieve severe stinging or burning.

What's the best thing you can do to prevent and treat eye injuries? Share this article with someone you love--it's not "for your eyes only."

Lorri Preston is a clinical medicine writer, Health Sciences News and Information. The Wellness column is coordinated by Colleen Doyle of the Seretean Center for Health Promotion.

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