Mix Summer Fun with Eye Safety

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Eye and Vision Care

Some of the things that make summertime fun are the same things that can put your vision at risk. Dr. Philip Custer, an eye surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital specializing in treating eye injuries, says that summer activities such as trimming the lawn, playing baseball or shooting off fireworks can cause devastating eye injuries.

"One thing that is remarkable to us as eye surgeons is the amount of patients that we encounter with pretty severe injuries to their eye that really results in loss of vision," Dr. Custer said. "Eye trauma is one of the leading causes of blindness that we see certainly in children and young adults."

There are three main types of eye injuries, Dr. Custer said. They are: blunt trauma, such as being hit in the eye with a baseball, bat or other hard object; chemical injuries, such as when an acid or pesticide splashes into the eye; and penetrating injuries, often caused when a lawnmower throws debris or a child gets poked in the eye with a sparkler.

Dr. Custer, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Washington University School of Medicine, offered some tips on avoiding eye injuries and saving your eyesight in the summer:

Make sure children are properly supervised. Kids don't think of the consequences of their actions, so make sure they aren't throwing balls directly at someone's face. Make sure an adult is monitoring them if they are using a BB gun. Don't let them play with fireworks -- especially don't let them run with sparklers.

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If you live in an area that allows you to shoot off fireworks, make sure you are using legal fireworks. These are usually less powerful and offer some degree of safety, Dr. Custer said.

"Don't play games with fireworks. For instance, don't use bottle rockets like paintballs," he said. "And the final thing is that if you have a firework that doesn't go off, let's not take a close look at that wondering why it didn't go off because sometimes they'll ignite later and next thing we know we have the projectile striking us in our eyes."

Wear protective eyewear when appropriate. Dr. Custer recommends wraparound safety goggles for jobs like mowing the lawn, trimming or woodworking, where debris could be thrown into the eye and can scratch or pierce the outer cover, called the cornea. These injuries are especially dangerous because of the danger of infection.

If you do suffer an eye injury, Dr. Custer recommends you get to a doctor or emergency room as soon as possible for treatment. If you've suffered a chemical injury, you should flush your eye with water thoroughly and then go to an emergency room.

"It's very important to get immediate help," he said. "It could save your vision."

St. Louis, July 1, 2005

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