John Frederick, M.D.

As the long warm days of summer approach, it’s natural that we engage in more outdoor activities. Children will be running from the ball diamond, to the playground, to the swimming pool, as fast as they can. During this fun-filled season, it’s easy to forget the possibility of injury. Eye injuries in particular are more common in the summertime. 90 percent of serious eye injuries are preventable through the use of appropriate protective eyewear. Here’s a few of the potential problems to be aware of.

A common injury in the summertime is a scratch on the surface of the eye (or corneal abrasion) from a foreign body, such as a tiny stone, grain of sand or other object. Small foreign bodies can be deflected into the eye at high velocity from the blades of lawn mowers or the lines of lawn trimmers. Children should not be allowed nearby while a lawn mower or lawn trimmer is being operated. Wearing safety glasses can prevent a large majority of these injuries. Ideally, safety goggles with polycarbonate (a type of plastic that is extremely strong, lightweight, and shatterproof) lenses and side shields should be worn whenever there is a risk of particles flying or for appropriate sports. Set an example by always wearing safety glasses/goggles yourself, while using power tools, lawn trimmers or hammering metal. If you do get a foreign body in your eye, often they will not cause immediate pain, but start to ache later that night or the next day. Material embedded in the eye is usually too small to see by the naked eye. If the symptoms do not resolve after irrigating the eye thoroughly with water (or saline) see your physician right away.

Fireworks are another potential cause of severe eye injury. They cause damage by both direct injury from the force of the explosion and from exposure to a foreign body – the gunpowder, paper, plastic and wood materials used in their manufacture.

Eye injuries from animal bites or scratches are also more common this time of year. Children are at higher risk due to their stature. Kids will also approach new animals without the caution that adults have learned. These types of injuries can be complicated by infection. Close observation of young children and a proper degree of caution around animals can prevent many of these encounters.

While not an injury, we also need to recall potential damage to the eyes from the sun. We are well versed in the use of sunscreens, but don’t always remember to have our kids wear UV blocking sunglasses. This simple precaution may decrease the risk of cancers in and around the eye, cataracts and macular degeneration down the road.

Eye protection, education and early treatment are the keys to prevention and minimizing the damage of eye injuries. The start of summer is a good time to revisit these issues with your children and family so everyone can enjoy the season a little safer!

BIO: Dr. Frederick, with Eye Surgeons Associates, is board-certified with a fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology. He practices in Bettendorf, Iowa and Rock Island, Illinois.

The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.

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