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Tips to Avoid the Eye Doctor this Halloween

From spooky masks to pointy swords, Halloween costumes and their accessories can lead to eye injuries when not handled carefully. Expert Matthew Gardiner, MD, weighed in on the risks.

With Halloween only days away, it’s crucial to be careful with certain accessories from costumes that can pose added risks to the eyes. From scratched corneas from toy swords to irritation from ghoulish eye makeup, specialists at the Mass Eye and Ear Ophthalmology Emergency Department often see a slight uptick of these injuries come the end of October.

“We see a handful of cases related to Halloween either the night of or in the days after,” Dr. Matthew Gardiner, director of Ophthalmology Emergency, Consult, and Hospitalist Services at Mass Eye and Ear, told  Focus. “The thing that we fear the most is kids being hit by cars. I just don’t think they see very well when their faces are covered with large, obstructing masks.”

Dr. Gardiner offered the following suggestions to help you and your kids stay out of the eye doctor’s office this year.

1) Look for hypoallergenic face paint, and avoid the eye area.


If you’re planning to use face paint and makeup you pick up at the costume shop, make sure you’re buying a hypoallergenic brand, and avoid applying these makeup and paints to the lids and lashes. If kids –and adults — are going to be running around and sweating, these products could run into the eye.

“A lot of these products aren’t pH-balanced for the eye,” Dr. Gardiner said. “I recommend keeping a good distance from the eye itself.”

2) Avoid costumes and accessories that obstruct vision.


Wearing a cumbersome costume or mask this Halloween? These masks and accessories can restrict your visual field, particularly peripheral vision, and prevent children and parents from navigating well, especially at night. It’s important to be especially careful when wearing a mask and navigating trick-or-treating.

3) Avoid sharp props that could poke the eye.

fotolia_107174587_m-300x241-7624195Swords, arrows and other pointy accessories can unexpectedly hit the wearer or someone else in the eye, leading to scratched corneas, or other damage to the transparent tissue at the front of the eye. A scratched cornea can cause significant discomfort and sensitivity to light.

Dr. Gardiner advises caution with any costume accessory: “Even with things that aren’t sharp, if you get poked in the eye, you can get a corneal abrasion.”

4) Steer clear of contact lenses that weren’t prescribed by an eye doctor.

Colored contact lenses can change the look of your eyes in a decorative way, but you should never purchase them over-the-counter without being fitted and prescribed a pair by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Without being examined and fitted, you could be wearing the wrong size or shape lens for your eyes — or worse, you could give yourself an infection without proper care.

“People who haven’t been taught how to use contact lenses are ripe for getting contact lens keratitis,” says Dr. Gardiner.

Many costume shops and online vendors sell colored contact lenses illegally, and these products can be risky. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers more tips and information regarding Halloween contact lenses.

If you or your kids experience any of the following, please see an ophthalmologist (If you’re in New England, Mass Eye and Ear’s emergency department is open 24/7):

• Eye pain that doesn’t go away
• Changes in vision
• Redness or bleeding from the eye, or
• If the eye looks or feels like it’s been injured


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