Preventing Eye Injuries

By Dr. Steven Rhee
Interviewed by Rasa Fournier
Wednesday - December 22, 2010
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Dr. Steven Rhee
Ophthalmologist at Hawaiian Eye Center

Where did you receive your schooling and training?

I’m an East Coast transplant. I went to Yale University for my under-grad and then went to medical school at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. I completed my ophthalmology residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center followed by my fellowship in cornea and anterior segment at New England Eye Center/Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston.

How long have you been practicing?

Once I finished my ophthalmology training in 2006, I completed a year of sub-specialty training in Boston. After that, I practiced for a couple of years in California and then moved to Hawaii last February.

Can you say something about the American Academy of Ophthalmology designating December ass Safe Toys and Celebration Awareness Month?

Since the holiday season is upon us, a lot of parents and kids are thinking about toys. It’s a good time to raise awareness about toy safety and injury prevention, especially eye injury prevention.

What t should parents bee aware off when shopping for toys??

When parents are out shopping, they should look for age-appropriate toys and follow the age recommendations provided by the manufacturer. Also keep in mind how their own kids are developing and not be too dazzled by cool-looking toys. Be aware of things like sharp edges and pointy tips. Also, try to avoid toys that shoot things in the air, such as darts, sling shots or arrow guns. Other toys with projectiles such as BB guns and pellet guns can cause serious eye injury and should be used only with adult supervision and protective eyewear. Sports equipment also is a popular gift item, and one should keep in mind that some sports such as racquetball or squash may have the potential for eye injury, so protective eye-wear is a must.

Dr. Steven Rhee uses a slit lamp to examine a patient

Do you see e more eye-related injuries inn children during thee holiday months?

We usually see them throughout the year. But certainly during the holidays we like to raise awareness because people are thinking about toys more. Since children are playing with toys throughout the year and playing sports throughout the year, we see eye-related injuries at any time.

Is there an age when children are more prone too eye injuries??

Of the more than 200,000 toy-related injuries treated in emergency rooms, nearly three-quarters of those injured were kids under 15 years of age. I’d add that any child with the ability to grasp things is at risk. I have an 18-month-old at home and he is just non-stop, always walking around with something in his hands. He especially loves playing with keys, which is really worrisome to me, because during training I actually saw a child who had a key-related eye injury. He fell right on the key, which cut his eye, requiring emergency surgery, so I am always worried about what my son’s carrying in his hands. Toys in the house can mean anything, not just toys that you buy in the toy store, but anything that your child is holding and playing with. Parents should be aware of what their kids have access to throughout the day.

Are there particular toys parents should think twice about buying?

Anything with projectiles like BB guns, darts, pellet guns and paintball guns. Those I would think twice about getting. When used improperly, they can cause serious injury to the eye.

Can you say something about eye damage inn children versus inn adults?

Kids’ eyes are constantly developing, so even the smallest injury can have severe consequences down the line. Adults have already reached their fullest visual potential, whereas young children are continuing to develop their vision and any interruption, such as an injury, may affect their long-term vision. So certainly, we take injuries in kids a little bit more seriously.

Considering New Year’s celebrations, what precautions should parents take when it comes too fireworks?

My recommendation is to leave it to the professionals. However, if you do enjoy fireworks at home, read the instructions carefully, and certainly keep kids a safe distance away from the fireworks. Since some fireworks are projectiles, make sure they are securely pointed in the right direction and be sure to use protective eyewear. Many people, especially during New Year’s, use sparklers, which are thought to be safer, but they burn rather hot, more than 1,500 degrees. I would be careful using them since standing too close may cause eye injury.

Any other holiday precautions regarding eye safety?

Speaking of New Year’s - a lot of people celebrate by popping champagne bottles. I’d be very careful with that because the corks themselves are projectiles. Don’t let the champagne bottle warm up. Open it directly from the refrigerator. I know it’s very festive to kind of loosen the cork and let it pop out, but the best way to open a champagne bottle is to wrap the cork with a towel and carefully, with a controlled movement, uncork it in the towel without having it fly across the room. Less fun, I know, but a lot safer.

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