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December 9, 2002


Watch Out for Children's Eyes Over Holidays: Safety Tips from Emory Eye Center

ATLANTA -- "Watch it! You'll put your eye out!" That decades-old saying has a lot of credibility according to many ophthalmologists, particularly around the holidays. Toys or athletic equipment with flying parts or sharp objects may make your children happy, but they also can be an accident waiting to happen.

More than 90 percent of all eye injuries in children can be prevented. Here's how.

* Provide close supervision. If your kids received a potentially dangerous toy this Christmas or Hanukkah -- such as a laboratory or tool set, remote-controlled airplane, darts, bow-and-arrows or stomp rockets -- teach them how to use the items properly, recommends Emory Eye Center pediatric ophthalmologist Scott Lambert. Provide them with safety goggles. Let your children play with toys best suited to their age and maturity level.

Children put their eyes at greatest risk for blindness when they shoot BB guns, Dr. Lambert says. "Often a child will lose the eye completely."

* Do not allow children to light fireworks or be near others doing so. Remember that even seemingly harmless items like rubber bands, paper clips and fish hooks can cause serious eye injury.

* Wear safety glasses. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 100,000 children are injured during sports or recreational activities each year. Children who play ball sports are especially vulnerable and should protect their eyes by wearing safety glasses, says Dr. Lambert. Safety glasses and goggles are available in most athletic stores and optical shops.

Of particular concern is the current paintball craze. Multiple eye injuries have resulted from this new game. Safety eyewear would have prevented those injuries.

It is estimated that up to 30 percent of eye injuries in children under 16 years old are sports-related and usually occur in persons not wearing protective eyewear.

"Baseball is the most frequent cause of eye injuries in children under age 15. Among the 15- to 24-year-old age group, basketball and football are responsible for most sports-related eye injuries. Racquet sports are the culprits in adults over age 24," Dr. Lambert reports.

Dr. Lambert recommends that children wear polycarbonate safety glasses, goggles or shields. Polycarbonate is a lightweight, shatterproof plastic that can be up to 100 times stronger than other plastic on impact for objects of certain sizes.

* If injury occurs, seek immediate medical attention. Injuries that need medical attention include blows to the eye, corneal cuts or abrasions, cuts that show signs of infection (persistent redness, puffiness or pus), or particles that can't be dislodged easily. Eye injuries should be immediately treated by an ophthalmologist or primary care physician to reduce the risk of permanent damage. The extent of damage to the eye may not be immediately apparent.

January is National Eye Care Month and a good time to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist or optometrist. The Emory Eye Center's comprehensive ophthalmology section offers primary eye care, routine eye exams and medical and surgical first-line treatments for disorders such as cataracts, glaucoma and retinal problems. Its many subspecialists provide eye care for more complex disorders, including diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, inherited eye disorders in children and ocular tumors. For more information, call 404-778-5522.

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