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Man wearing safety glassesJohn Frederick, M.D.

As we embrace this joyous season, it’s crucial to keep in mind the potential for accidents. Summertime, in particular, sees a rise in eye injuries. The good news is, 90 percent of these serious eye injuries can be avoided by simply wearing the right protective eyewear. Let’s delve into some of the common issues and how we can stay vigilant.

A common injury in the summertime is a scratch on the eye’s surface (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 lawnmowers or the lines of lawn trimmers.

People, especially children, should not be allowed to be near a lawn mower or trimmer while it 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.

Always wear safety glasses/goggles 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 for the naked eye to see. If the symptoms do not resolve after thoroughly rinsing the eye with water (or saline), see your physician immediately.

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. Even sparklers can be dangerous, as they burn at more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s best to leave fireworks to the professionals.

Eye injuries from animal bites or scratches are also more common this time of year. Watch the kids and grandkids, as they 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 we don’t always remember to wear, and have 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 preventing and minimizing the damage of eye injuries. The start of summer is a good time to revisit these issues 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. For more information, visit:

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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