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Keeping the Eye Doctor Away on Halloween

From gladiator swords to spooky masks, Halloween costumes and their accessories can lead to eye injuries if not handled carefully. 

With Halloween just around the corner, Dr. Matthew Gardiner and his colleagues have been counseling their patients to be careful with certain accessories to their costumes. From scratched corneas from toy swords to irritation from ghoulish eye makeup, they often see a slight uptick of these injuries in the Mass. Eye and Ear Ophthalmology Emergency Department around the end of October.

“We see a handful of cases related to Halloween either the night of or in the days after,” said Dr. Gardiner. “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.”

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

1) Avoid masks or accessories that obstruct vision.


Masks and accessories that restrict your visual field, particularly peripheral vision (what is seen on the sides when looking straight ahead), can prevent kids from navigating well at night. Dr. Gardiner recommends trying something like face paint or make-up instead. However…

2) Look for hypo-allergenic face paint, and avoid the eye area.


Face paint is a good alternative to masks, but make sure you’re buying a hypo-allergenic brand, and avoid applying to the lids and lashes. If kids are going to be running around and sweating, these products could run into the eye.

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

3) Don’t wear contact lenses that weren’t prescribed to you by an eye doctor.

fotolia_71741191_m-300x200-9904148Colored 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 places sell colored contact lenses illegally. The FDA has further tips on making sure you’re getting them safely.

4) Avoid sharp props that could poke somebody in the eye.

fotolia_107174587_m-300x241-7624195Swords, arrows and other pointy accessories can unexpectedly hit someone 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.”

Bonus: Don’t play with fireworks.

If you or your kids experience any of the following, please see an ophthalmologist (If you’re in the Boston area, 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

On behalf of Mass. Eye and Ear, we wish you a fun, spooky and safe Halloween!

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