Emory Report

January 12, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 16


Precautions help prevent
many eye injuries

"Watch it! You'll put your eye out!" Do you find yourself saying this a lot to your kids? Toys or athletic equipment with flying parts or sharp objects may make your children happy, but they also can be an accident waiting to happen.

More than 90 percent of all eye injuries in children can be prevented. There are ways you can help prevent injury to your children's eyes, but you also should know what to do if an accident occurs.

Provide close supervision. If your kids received a potentially dangerous toy this holiday season-a laboratory or tool set, a remote-controlled airplane, darts, bow and arrows or stomp rockets-teach them how to use the items properly. Let your kids play with toys best suited to their age and maturity. Children put their eyes at greatest risk when they shoot BB guns, said Emory pediatric ophthalmologist Arlene Drack. "Often a child will lose the eye completely."

Do not allow children to light fireworks or be near others doing so. Remember, even seemingly harmless items like rubber bands, paper clips and fishhooks can cause serious eye injury.

Wear safety glasses. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 100,000 children are injured each year during sports or recreational activities. Children, especially those who play ball sports, should protect their eyes by wearing safety glasses. Safety glasses are available in most athletic stores and optical shops.

Drack, who conducted a study of safety eyewear among children, estimates up to 30 percent of eye injuries in children under 16 are sports related and usually occur in those not wearing protective glasses. Baseball is the most frequent cause of eye injury in children under 15. Among 15- to 24-year-olds, basketball and football are responsible for most sports-related eye injuries. Racquet sports are the culprits in adults over 24. Drack recommends children wear polycarbonate safety glasses, goggles or shields. Polycarbonate is a lightweight, shatterproof plastic that can be up to 100 times stronger on impact than other plastics-against projectiles of certain sizes.

If injury occurs, seek immediate medical attention. Injuries that need medical attention include blows to the eye, corneal cuts or abrasions, cuts that show signs of infection (persistent redness, puffiness or pus) or particles that can't be dislodged easily. Eye injuries should be immediately treated by an ophthalmologist or primary care physician to reduce the risk of permanent damage. The extent of damage to the eye may not always be readily apparent.

January is National Eye Care Month and a good time to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Lee Jenkins is public relations manager for Emory Eye Center. "Wellness" is coordinated by the Seretean Center for Health Promotion at the Rollins School.

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