By Dr. Michael Boehm

Many people celebrate the holidays by popping open champagne or other bubbly beverages. A champagne cork can fly up to 50 mph as it leaves the bottle, so if a popping cork strikes an eye, the celebration can change into a tragedy.

A flying champagne cork resembles a guided missile. It’s the perfect size to penetrate the normal protection afforded by the orbital bones of the brow and cheek surrounding the eyeball. The eye damage resulting from popped corks can vary from a painful surface injury to a hemorrhage inside the eye or more severe internal damage, even blindness. It may also precipitate glaucoma, cataract, or dislocated lens and retinal damage or detachment. The effects may require medical or surgical care. Even acute care may not prevent permanent injury or vision loss in some circumstances.

Prevent eye injury by opening sparkling beverages properly. Never point an open pressurized container at anyone’s face, including your own.

American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends these five simple steps for safely opening champagne or other bubbly beverages:

  1. Start with a cold bottle. Chill to about 45 degrees, as the bubbles (filled with gas) expand when warm, causing pressure to build and potentially making the cork fly and maybe hitting someone in the eye. Plus, champagne tastes best chilled!
  2. Treat the bottle gently. No shaking prior to opening and do not point it in anyone’s direction when opening. This is how someone loses an eye.
  3. Control the cork. Remove the foil covering the cork. The wire protector covers the cork for good reason. Keep pressure on the cork with the palm of your hand while carefully removing the wire.
  4. Place a towel over the bottle top and grasp the cork. Tilt the top away from yourself and others. Slowly twist the bottle at the base while holding the cork to break the seal, firmly with one hand while twisting the cork slowly upward. Counter the force of the cork using slight downward pressure just as the cork breaks free, creating the signature pop. A controlled release of the cork may briefly diminish the festive pop, but may actually prolong the fizz of your poured beverage.
  5. Make your toast to a safe and happy holiday season! Cheers!

Watch how to open champagne safely

Bio: Dr. Michael Boehm is a board certified comprehensive ophthalmologist at Eye Surgeons Associates with a fellowship in cornea and external diseases and a specialty interest in dry eye. Dr. Boehm practices at our offices in Bettendorf, Silvis and Rock Island.

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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