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Keeping Your Family Safe from Eye Injuries this Holiday Season

Expert Chats

Don’t ruin your holiday season with an eye injury. Mass Eye and Ear trauma expert Margot Weinert, MD, offers advice on ways to stay safe.

The holidays are always a time filled with good cheer, visiting family and friends, and sharing gifts with loved ones. While most holiday decorations and toys are safe, the Emergency Department at Mass Eye and Ear does see an uptick in facial injuries around this time of year. Focus spoke with Margot Weinert, MD, director of the Ocular Trauma Service at Mass Eye and Ear, about the most common eye injuries during this time and how you can celebrate the holidays safely.

Be cautious of projectiles and objects that can cause serious damage

According to Dr. Weinert, some of the top items around the holiday season that pose the greatest injury risk are:

  • Projectile toys

Projectile toys like Nerf, BB, and paintball guns are popular gifts that have been known to cause significant eye injury, including bleeding inside the eye if struck. “When you have projectile toys, your kids should be wearing some sort of eye protection like safety glasses or goggles,” said Dr. Weinert.

She explained further that being struck by a projectile in the eye can cause vision problems in the future that can require frequent follow-up appointments or even surgery. “Bleeding inside the eye can cause certain risks like vision loss or eye pressure issues, even forms of glaucoma,” she said. “We often need the patient to return to Mass Eye and Ear for treatment and to monitor that the eye is healing.”

BB guns can be particularly dangerous as those pellets can bounce off surfaces and the ground, rebounding into the eye. Eye protection is not only important for the person handling the projectile but also for those around them as well.

  • Scooters

Scooters are common gifts for children, and while we frequently hear about the importance of head protection while scootering, being aware of the eye risk is important too. Handlebars in particular could hit little ones in the eye during a crash. Dr. Weinert advises wearing protective goggles while on a scooter.

  • Elastic bands

There is often a fitness craze around the holidays, and Dr. Weinert noted to beware of “stretch and snap” items like elastic workout bands that can cause blunt trauma to the eye. Make sure they are very well secured and you are not stretching them beyond their potential.

Similarly, elastic bungee cords also pose a threat, as the hook can cause blunt and penetrating trauma to the eye. She recommends being especially cautious while securing Christmas trees to the car or wrapping firewood with these cords.

Protecting your eyes while decorating the house

While decorating, Dr. Weinert advised being aware of your general safety to help avoid eye injuries. Tips include not being on a ladder alone while stringing lights, and being extra cautious if you are around anything sharp or projectile while decorating.

Around the holidays glitter seems to be everywhere, so if you find yourself with sparkles or other foreign material in the eyes, she recommends irrigating the eye thoroughly in the shower or with saline solution. Give it 20 minutes to see how you feel, because the object may be out but still causing irritation effects. If after irrigation the eye is still bothering you, Dr. Weinert recommends visiting your local eye doctor, urgent care, or the Mass Eye and Ear emergency room.

Snow and cold-weather sports safety

Many of us are excited to dust off the snow boots and hit the ski mountains this winter. Dr. Weinert emphasized that wearing goggles while skiing and snowboarding is always important, not only for bright light, as snow blindness can cause light damage to the eye, but also to avoid tree branches and poles that can pose risks. Beware of melting icicles and slipping on ice while walking, she added.

“We see a lot of cold weather-related injuries, especially facial fractures, around this time of year which causes a variety of eye trauma,” she said.

Stay safe and enjoy the holidays!

It’s important to keep your eyes protected since damage can not only derail your holidays but lead to long-term issues for patients.

“I always tell my patients that once you have one injury, your eye is more prone to small trauma causing bigger problems,” said Dr. Weinert. “I recommend that they wear protective eyewear moving forward even if they don’t have a prescription.”

For eye protection, Dr. Weinert suggests looking for polycarbonate shatterproof googles or safety glasses which can be easily found online. She noted that most regular prescription eyeglasses are not shatterproof but they are a good first line of defense against eye injuries.

Dr. Weinert added, “Safety googles make a great stocking stuffer!”

From all of us at Mass Eye and Ear, we wish you a fun and safe holiday season. If you or your children need our help during the holidays, Mass Eye and Ear’s Emergency Department is open 24/7 for eye and ENT care. Call us at 617-573-3431.

If you or your kids experience any of the following, please see an ophthalmologist:

  • 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

About the expert

Margot Weinert, MD, serves as the Coordinator and Director of the Eye Trauma Service at Mass Eye and Ear and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. At Mass Eye and Ear, she sees patients at the 243 Charles Street location in Boston.

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