(Editor’s note: This article is by Dr. David Cronauer, a graduate of the Wilkes University Pennsylvania College of Optometry affiliated, accelerated program. Dr. Cronauer is associated with ReplaceMyContacts.com, a provider of discount contact lenses on various brands including Air Optix Aqua, Biofinity Toric, and many more.)
As an adult, you know that protecting your eyes and safeguarding your vision is important. Carelessness or a lack of precaution can cost you your vision for the rest of your life. Kids do not have the experience or perspective to worry about safety, let alone eye safety. This is why they attempt to sled down the stairs on pillows and imitate wrestling moves in the living room. As a parent, intervening in perilous situations and talking with your children about safety are your best lines of defense against misfortune and it is important to include eye safety in these discussions.
Taking precautionary measures can decrease the likelihood that an eye injury can occur, although no amount of preparation can prevent all accidents from happening. However, there are several things that parents can do to provide as much protection as possible. The following is a list of eye safety precautions that parents can begin to address immediately.
Protective Gear for Sports
Helmets, UV protective goggles, batting helmets with face shields and safety goggles for racket sports or basketball are all equipment that should be part of the uniform for your child’s sporting activity. Thousands of eye injuries are sustained in youth sports because children are not adequately protected. Talk to your recreation department, school athletic director or club sports director about either providing this equipment, or encouraging parents to provide them for their children. If eye safety equipment becomes part of the status quo for outfitting kids for sports, then not wearing them will become unacceptable.
Children need full spectrum UV protection as much as adults. Sunglasses are an important part of sun safety, along with sunblock and hydration. UV rays in particular, which reflect off of snow and water, can cause sunburn of the eyes which is called photokeratitis. Although this painful condition is temporary, extended exposure to UV rays can cause both an earlier onset and more severe macular degeneration as one ages; it has also been linked to the development of cataracts.
It can be challenging to ensure that kids play with age-appropriate toys, especially if there are older children in the house. However, some toys are better left at the store rather than risking injury. Toys with sharp edges or points, or with parts that “spring” back or up are all choices that pose a risk. Further, any toys that shoot or fling objects or can be used as swords or batons have greater potential to cause an eye injury. There are many toy options that will both delight and engage your child that do not include these features and it is a good idea to err on the side of safety when selecting them.
Access to Sharp Objects and Household Chemicals
Most parents keep scissors, knives, gardening tools and household tools safely away from their children. However, some other objects have just as much potential for danger but their ubiquity can cause us to overlook them. Pencils, pens and even keys can cause severe eye injury if misused or if held during a fall or a stumble by a child. Silk flower stems, twist ties and rubber bands are also objects that can inadvertently cause a great deal of damage but they are rarely thought of as dangerous objects.
Another danger, household cleaners and other chemicals are usually locked away and/or the risks of ingesting them are vigorously discussed. However, the impulse to pull a spray trigger or look inside a container, with the eye pressed to the container opening, can seem outside of the boundaries of the parental warning not to drink or taste the substances. Securely locking away substances, investing in products that include child safety caps and turning sprayers to “off” when you are done using them can help to prevent unnecessary injuries.
Finally, simply talking to your kids about eye safety and the importance of protecting their eyes is an important companion piece to all of these precautions. It is never too early to begin discussing eye safety with your children and to help them to understand that vision is an ability to be thankful for and to safeguard.
(Thank you Dr. Cronauer!)
Image courtesy of Micah Sittig via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.
Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want their kids’ eyes to be safe.