It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – here’s how to keep your eyes merry and injury free this holiday season

While the festive time of year brings with it plenty of celebrations, decorations and social occasions, Australians are encouraged to keep eye safety front of mind, particularly during the month of December, with hospitals seeing an increase in eye related injuries over the Christmas holidays.

From corks blasting out of bubbly to rogue Christmas tree branches getting too close to corneas, here are some tips and tricks to mitigate potential eye hazards so you can continue to enjoy the merriment of the most wonderful time of the year.

How to cheers without the fear of flying corks 

Did you know a champagne cork can rocket out of a bottle at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour?  

If that popping pace collides with an eye, nothing good can come of it.  

"If a misaimed champagne cork hits an eye, it can cause internal bleeding in the eye and abrasions as well as more serious injury. From rupturing the eye wall to inducing acute glaucoma, retinal detachment, lens dislocation and structural damage, the possible consequences underscore the importance of eye safety during celebrations,” said Lyn Hsieh, optometrist and National Professional Services Advisor at Optometry Australia. 

Here are some things to keep in mind if you are popping a bottle of bubbly at a holiday party this month: 

  • Be sure it’s chilled – the gas in the bubbles expands as it warms, causing a build-up of pressure in the bottle 
  • Do NOT shake the bottle 
  • Point the bottle away from people’s faces and keep a thumb over the cork  
  • Twist the BOTTLE, not the cork, while pressing down firmly 

Cheers to no errant cork caused eye injuries!

O’ Christmas tree, o’ Christmas tree 

While beautifully baubled Christmas trees might be the embodiment of the holly jolly season, branches from real or artificial spruces can cause significant eyelid scratches or corneal abrasions if they make contact with the eye. 

Several studies reviewing the incidence of eye injuries related to Christmas trees also found that just as many (or even more) instances of trauma occur during the harvesting, transporting and disposal of Christmas trees as do during initial setup and decoration. 

"When you’re decking the halls, be cautious of pine needles and watch for tree branches that might unexpectedly snap back into your face. If a close encounter results in an eye scrape, even if it seems minor at the time, it’s important to visit your optometrist to assess potential severity of the injury. Don't take chances as what seems like a small corneal abrasion can lead to lasting vision damage.” 

For cuts or punctures to the eye, seek medical advice immediately. 

Keep your eye on the ball to avoid getting a ball to the eye 

What is more quintessentially Aussie than a game of backyard cricket after a long festive lunch? 

With almost 10 percent of all sporting eye injuries copped while playing cricket, it’s important to ensure eyes are protected especially while at the crease or behind the wickets. 

“Getting hit in the eye with a cricket ball can result in corneal abrasions, orbital fractures and, in more severe cases, retinal detachment. So even if it’s just a casual game with mates, it’s vital to take the necessary safety precautions to avoid a potential trip to the emergency room.” 

Optometrists typically recommend ultra-strong polycarbonate lenses for eye protection, in sports-appropriate frames or goggles that do not affect peripheral or side vision.

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid” 

It might be an iconic line from an equally iconic movie, however Ralphie’s unfortunate yet preventable eye injury in A Christmas Story is a cautionary tale for parents of kids unwrapping projectile-loaded or sharp-edged toys on Christmas day.  

“Eye injury inflicted by the likes of stomp rockets, swords, water pistols, foam ball launchers and even aerosols shooting silly string can result in everything from corneal abrasions and ulcers to traumatic cataracts, retinal detachment and bleeding inside the eye, all of which can lead to permanent vision loss or blindness.” 

Here are a few things to consider when choosing toys for children this Christmas: 

  • Opt for in-store toy shopping over online purchases – this gives you a chance to better examine a toy's features and assess its safety for young children 
  • Stick to the recommended age range featured on toy packaging  
  • When buying toys for older children, be mindful that they may fall into the hands of younger siblings  

Children should always be supervised when playing with toys that could potentially cause injury if used incorrectly. 

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