Now that October is here, Halloween is fast approaching and winter will be following tight on its heels. But before the deluge of merriment and its accompanying housecleaning and decorating activities begins, you should consider celebrating another fall occasion: Eye Injury Prevention Month!
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is hosting the eye injury prevention party throughout October, and the festivities include such fun activities as learning stats on the number of annual eye injuries caused by household products and choosing the best safety goggles for yardwork. Hooray!
Okay, so it’s hard to compete with the excitement of buckets of candy and spooky costumes, but learning about eye safety in October can mean happy and healthy fun the rest of the year. Read on to find out more about common eye injury risks and how to avoid them.
Risks at home
It might be tempting to assume that most eye injuries happen to people in physically demanding work environments or while playing sports, but according to the fifth-annual Eye Injury Snapshot, nearly half (44.7%) of all reported injuries occur in the home1.
This isn’t to say that your home is a terrifying obstacle course of hazards waiting to harm you. But, the reality is that many activities centered around our homes pose a risk of eye injury.
Weed whackers, lawn mowers and other tools for use around the yard threaten the eyes by sending dirt and plant debris into the air. Hand tools like clippers or trowels can scratch or cut the eyes.
Motorized tools, such as a mower, can also fling rocks, toys, or other hard objects that get caught in their paths. This can put the user and anyone nearby in danger of being struck in the eye. Make sure to clear away such objects before tending to an area2.
Home power tools can spray up debris such as paint or sawdust, depending on the job. Keep tools in good working condition and replace parts promptly to avoid unnecessary malfunction that could injure the eyes or other parts of the body2.
Don’t forget about non-power tools. Be careful when securing loads with bungee cords, as a taut cord could snap into the eye if it slips2.
Many of the products we rely on for miraculously removing grease from our stoves or returning our tub to a pristine white contain harsh chemicals that can cause severe damage to our eyes upon contact. Household products, such as bleach and other cleaners cause 125,000 eye injuries every year2. Exercise caution when using chemicals such as solvents and cleaning products that could get in the eyes and cause injury.
While chopped onions might make you cry, hot grease in the eye could send you to the emergency room! Take caution when frying or sautéing with oil or fatty meats, and be extra careful of water coming into contact with hot oil as it causes splattering.
Risks At Work
Many of the risks to the eyes that exist at home—chemicals, tools, and cooking—are also present at our workplaces. Sometimes the workplace exposes people to more dangerous versions of those home obstacles, as well as to new ones.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that more than 20,000 eye injuries per year take place at work. What’s more, the combined cost of lost labor, medical treatment, and worker compensation resulting from these injuries is estimated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at over $300 million a year3.
Eye safety in the workplace is an obvious concern for employees and employers alike, so it’s important to be aware of the risks inherent in your work.
Tools, chemicals, and radiation can be dangerous to the eyes, even when used correctly, but we all can make mistakes at work for a variety of reasons. Risks of eye injury increase when we work while distracted, are performing a new task, or are feeling rushed or fatigued4. Staying focused on the task at hand and following guidelines while using equipment will help keep those mistakes to a minimum.
Risks to Children
Kids face a whole slew of unique risks to their eyes. They play with toys that may or may not be safe, they’re more prone to falling around the house, and they don’t exercise the same caution around dangerous chemicals, just to name a few.
Bystanders of people doing chores or working on projects face the same risk, if not more, as the person actually doing the work. Make sure you know where your kids are when you’re performing a task that might spray debris into the air or otherwise pose an eye risk. Either keep kids out of the area or make sure they are protected2.
Benjamin Franklin once said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and we bet the bespectacled statesman might agree that it’s never more true than when it comes to eye protection. After all, it is believed that using the appropriate protective eyewear can prevent 90% of all eye injuries5.
Selecting EyewearWhether at work, at home, or at play, the single best defense against eye injuries is protective eyewear. Despite the amazing benefits of protective eyewear, a survey by The American Academy of Ophthalmology revealed that only 35% of respondents claimed to always wear protective eyewear when performing home repairs or maintenance1.
You should be able to find a pair of protective glasses or goggles for just about any home chore at your local hardware store. Check that the product meets the standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) by looking for "ANSI Z87.1” marked on the frame or lens6.
The same ANSI-certified lenses used at home can be used at work in many cases. It’s best not to assume, though. Appropriate eyewear for a given task is determined by OSHA, so if you’re unsure, contact the person at your work in charge of overseeing OSHA compliance6.
If you’re performing a job that might send debris into the air, make sure you’re using goggles that wrap around the face and fit snugly in order to stop particles from getting into your eyes4
While prescription glasses don’t qualify as protective eyewear, there’s no need to forfeit your corrective lenses. Some protective eyewear is designed to fit over glasses. However, for a more comfortable option, contact your eye care practitioner to order safety eyewear with prescription polycarbonate lenses. Many employers are required to provide a prescription version of safety glasses to any employee who needs them4.
One final note on eyewear: remember to actually wear them! It’s tempting to take off your goggles if you’re sweaty or tired and then decide to do one more quick task without them. Unfortunately, “one more quick task” can easily result in a life-altering eye injury. Eye protection is always a “better safe than sorry” situation.
If you’re unsure how serious an eye injury is, always err on the side of caution by contacting or visiting a doctor immediately. We’ve included a few essential tips below for handling common eye injuries7.
First aid kit - In case of an injury to the eye, it’s important to have on hand a rigid eye shield (the bottom of a paper cup will do), commercial eyewash, and an ice pack (or the means to make one).
Chemicals - If you get dangerous chemicals in your eyes, it is important to flush them out immediately and thoroughly with water.
Impacts - If you’re struck on or around the eye, apply ice but NOT pressure to the eye.
Cuts and punctures - Do not attempt to wash the eye or remove an object if lodged in the eye. Simply cover the eye with an eye shield and seek medical treatment.
For more information on reacting to an eye injury, visit the Prevent Blindness page on eye emergencies.
Signs of a serious issue
Sometimes an eye injury seems benign at first and then develops into something more serious. Whether or not you think you’ve experienced an eye injury, seek medical attention immediately if you or someone you know experience any of the following3:
- Eye pain or trouble seeing
- Cut in eyelid
- Eyes not moving together
- One eye bulges out further than the other
- Pupil is an unusual size or shape
- Blood in the white part of the eye
- Something in the eye that can’t be removed
Thanks for Celebrating!
We hope you had fun at our Eye Injury Prevention Month party! You seem a little freaked out. Was it the talk of chemicals in the eyes and differently sized pupils? It’s true: eye injuries are a scary thing. And not the fun kind of scary. Luckily, now you know how easy it is to avoid a real life horror story: just remember to wear the correct protective eyewear whenever necessary and take measures to ensure you are doing work safely and with focus, especially around friends, family, or coworkers.
- Pagan-Duran, Brenda, MD. “Preventing Eye Injuries.” American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2016.
- Pagan-Duran, Brenda, MD. “Eye Injuries at Home.” American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2016.
- Dang, Shirley. “Eye Injuries at Work." American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2016.
- Heiting, Gary, OD. “Preventing Eye Injuries." All About Vision. 2016.
- “Preventing Eye Injuries." Prevent Blindness. 2016.
- Turbert, David. “Protective Eyewear." American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2016.
- “First Aid for Eye Emergencies." Prevent Blindness. 2016.