The Department of Health is asking Pennsylvanians to keep an eye out for their eyes this summer, as ocular injuries may occur more frequently with all that outdoor time.
As the weather warms up and more and more people trek outside for summer activities and projects, opportunities for eye injuries tend to increase as well, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said.
"During the summer, many children and adults are staying active by playing outside and taking part in organized or recreational sports," Levine said. "While we need people to take additional precautions as part of COVID-19 when participating these types of activities, it is also very important that individuals take the proper steps to protect their eyes from serious injuries. Eye injuries can be severe and impact an individual’s future and entire way of life."
The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that while many eye injuries occur on the job, nearly half happen at home. Consider all that is done around the home: repairs, yard work, cleaning, cooking. Either through working with sharp or otherwise dangerous equipment or other means, injuring your eye is a concerning possibility.
But it’s not all work and no play, as more than 40% of eye injuries each year are related to sports or other recreational activities.
Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States, and most injuries that are reported in school-aged children are sports-related. These injuries account for nearly 100,000 physician visits each year and cost more than $175 million.
Baseball, softball, basketball, lacrosse, hockey and racquet sports tend to see the most eye injuries. Baseball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries for children ages five to 14, while basketball tops the charts for teens and adults aged 15 to 64.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology notes that common causes for eye injuries include punches, blows from hands, balls and other sports equipment, flying pieces of material from explosions or industrial work, flying objects like bullets, darts, fireworks bungee cords and BBs, chemical splashes, and protests, riots or urban warfare.
The Department of Health reports that 90% of eye injuries can be prevented through wearing protective eyewear, such as safety glasses and goggles, safety shields and eye guards. Ordinary prescription glasses, contacts and sunglasses do not offer the same level of protection.
If you are concerned about a potential eye injury experienced by yourself or a loved one, it is integral to get medical attention as soon as possible. Some eye issues, like detached retinas, can only be detected by a doctor during an examination. Even eye injuries that seems minor, like a scratch, should be checked out, as serious issues can lead to vision loss or blindness.
While most experts agree that you should visit a medical professional after an eye injury, there are a few steps the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends to address the problem before you get to the doctor.
Common signs of an eye injury can include ongoing pain in the eye, trouble seeing, a cut or torn eyelid, one eye not moving as well as the other, one eye sticking out of the eye socket further than the other, an unusual pupil size or shape, blood in the clear part of the eye, and something in the eye or under the eyelid that tears and blinking cannot remove.
If you happen to get a bit of debris in your eye, do not rub it. Instead, blink several times and allow your tears to flush our the particle. You might also try lifting your upper eyelid over the lashes of your lower lid to get the eyelashes to brush the particle out, or you can use eyelash, saline solution or running tap water to flush the eye out. If you cannot remove the particle, or if it still feels as if there is something in your eye, go to a doctor or the emergency room as soon as possible.
Consider all other injuries other than grit or small scratches to be potentially serious. Do not touch, rub or apply pressure to the eye, do not try to remove any objects stuck in the eye, and do not apply ointment or other medications to the eye.
Over-the-counter eyedrops can actually make the irritation more painful. Only use prescription medications for the condition they were prescribed for, and not for emergency treatment. Do not try to treat the problem on your own, instead, see a doctor as soon as possible, and if you cannot reach an ophthalmologist, visit the emergency room.
If you get hit in the eye, gently apply a cold compress to reduce swelling – don’t use steak or other food items, as these can get bacteria in your eyes. Avoid applying pressure. If you end up with a black eye, pain or a visual disturbance after a light blow, immediately contact your ophthalmologist or emergency room, since these could be signs of a more significant injury.
If your eye is cut or punctured, gently place a shield or protective cover – the bottom of a paper cup taped to the bones surrounding the eye works in a pinch – over the eye. Be sure not to press the shield against the eye, do not rinse with water, do not remove any objects that are stuck in the eye, do not rub or apply pressure to the eye, and do not take any aspirin, ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, which can thin the blood and increase bleeding. Once your eye is protected, get emergency medical help.
In the case of chemical burns or splashes to the eye, immediately flush the eye with plenty of clean water, and seek emergency medical help right away. If possible, look for information on the chemical that got into the eye, as some can cause more damage than others.
Outside of eye safety, the Department of Health is also advising the public to protect themselves against COVID-19 while participating in organized sports. Participants are still required to don a face mask or other covering, unless they fall under an exception to the order issued by Secretary of Health. Coaches, athletes and spectators must wear face coverings, unless they are outdoors and are able to consistently maintain social distancing of at least six feet.
Athletes are not required to wear face coverings while actively engaged in workout and competitions that prevent the wearing of face coverings, though they must be worn while on the sidelines, in the dugout, etc., and any time six feet of social distancing is not possible.