The holiday season is an exciting time for all ages, and surprisingly it’s also a common time for eye injuries. Whether it’s getting a piece of glitter in the eye or a poke from a branch of a Christmas tree, awareness is key to prevention. Here are the top 4 holiday season scenarios that can result in eye injury.

Trimming the Tree

The tradition of the Christmas tree in Canada goes back to the late 18th century thanks to some early German settlers. The smell of pine and the distinctive coniferous branch are at the centre of many family holiday events. Cutting and handling the tree is associated with eye injury from dust or tree sap, exposing the eye to infection. The pine needles are sharp and can damage the eye if care is not taken. Old-fashioned glass ornaments pose a risk too, particularly to children. The same goes for the glass of the tree lights. Check them all carefully before handing these over to the family to hang on the tree. And, finally, don’t put the gifts too far under the tree and risk a poke to the eye by family members anxious to retrieve gifts on Christmas day.

New Toys

Christmas morning is when most people open gifts, and unfortunately toys are a major cause of eye-related injuries during the holiday season. Buy-wise! Guns, bows and arrows, and other toys that launch projectiles are fun, but create a significant risk of eye damage or injury. Balloon launchers, nerf guns and rocket launchers of all types need to be handled with extreme care. Toy fishing rods create a risk of an unintentional poke to the eye. Even water guns can cause harm if the stream of water hits your eye at close range. Aerosol silly string, if it hits you in the eye, can cause painful irritation and conjunctivitis. Take care not to purchase toys with sharp edges or harmful parts, and always make sure the toy is age appropriate for the child. Supervise children playing with new toys to reduce the risk of accidental eye injury.

Laser Lights

Laser lights for outdoor use are popular. Products like night stars used for landscape lighting are the most popular. If you are using laser lights outdoors you need to be informed and you need to educate your family, too. Manufacturers report the lasers are safe as long as they are used as directed and without tampering. Best practice is to not intentionally stare into a laser beam for any reason. Your blink reflex should provide adequate protection, however never point a laser light at the eyes.

Some of the green and red laser lights are actually Class IIIa lasers, meaning there is a small risk from accidental exposure if you allow for direct eye contact with the laser beam for more than a split second.

Take proper precautions when installing and using your laser lights. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and keep them away from small children. Remember to keep eye safety as your top priority when using lasers of any kind.

Flying corks

The holidays create many opportunities for social gatherings and celebrations. For many adults this includes enjoying a bottle of the bubbly. As crazy as it may sound, a flying cork from a bottle of champagne can cause significant eye damage including abrasions or rupturing the eyeball.

Impact by a cork to the eye could also result in bleeding inside the eye, detached retina, dislocated eye lens, and even damage to the orbital bone structure. Serious vision loss can result from these injuries. The energy that propels the cork is greatest when the bottle has not been properly chilled. Carbonated drinks have dissolved gas in them, and the gas comes out of the liquid more quickly and readily when warm. This can cause the cork to eject at speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour.

Eye safety around the holiday table can be ensured by following a few simple rules. When opening a bottle of champagne hold the cork down as you remove the wire wrapping around the cork. Place a towel over the cork and point it away from yourself and others. Hold the bottle at about a 45-degree angle and gently ease out the cork.

Season’s Best

Have fun decorating the house, cooking for friends and family, exchanging gifts, enjoying food and drink and all of the other treats this time of year.
The Eyesafe team at the Alberta Association of Optometrists wishes you a safe, healthy and prosperous 2020!

Glyn Jones is a partner at EHS Partnerships Ltd. in Calgary. He is a consulting occupational health and safety professional with 30 years of experience. He is a regular safety conference speaker in Canada, and he provides program design and instructional support to the University of New Brunswick’s OHS certificate and diploma programs.