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Take extra precautions with your eyes
Health advice
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Accidents can happen to anyone but some have repercussions that are hard to overcome. Eye injuries, for example, can cause permanent damage when simple preventive measures might have been taken. Knowing that 90 percent of all eye injuries could be prevented should make parents realize how important it is to familiarize themselves with potentially dangerous situations at home and in school. Parents must insist that children use protective eyewear when participating in sports or other hazardous activities.
Of the 100,000 eye injuries that occur annually, 40 percent occur during sports or recreational activities. Baseball is the No. 1 cause of sports-related injuries among children ages 5 to 14 years. Basketball is the most common cause of eye injuries in the 15 to 24 year-old age group. Injuries usually are caused by contact with fingers and elbows.
Increasing numbers of children are participating in sports at early ages and while many sports have official standards for safety equipment, some children (and parents) don’t take the guidelines seriously. Children may not understand because they don’t have the maturity to see possible consequences. It is especially important that parents take the lead in maintaining proper safety measures. To provide the safest environment, parents should go over guidelines with their children as many times as it takes until the children understand. Parents should only select games and toys that are appropriate for their children’s age and responsibility level.
In baseball, ice hockey and lacrosse, a helmet with a polycarbonate (an especially strong, shatterproof, lightweight plastic) face mask or wire shield should be worn at all times. It is important that the hockey face masks you select are approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council or the Canadian Standards Association.
Sports eye protectors with polycarbonate lenses should be worn for sports such as basketball, racquet sports, soccer, baseball fielders, lacrosse and field hockey. Choose eye protectors that have been tested to meet the American Society of Testing and Materials standards or that pass the CSA racquet sports standard. Protective glasses or goggles with UV protection should also be worn when snow or water skiing. They will help shield the eyes from sunburn and glare. Activities in which children should use protective eyewear are:
• Baseball         
• Basketball
• Football     
• Racquet sports
• Soccer         
• Wrestling
• Hockey — ice, roller, street, and field
• Lacrosse
• Paintball
Other important eye safety tips parents should follow include:
• Provide supervision and instruction whenever young children handle potentially dangerous items, such as pencils, scissors, forks and penknives. Even common household items such as paper clips, bungee cords, wire coat hangers, rubber bands and fishhooks can cause serious eye injury.
• Avoid projectile toys such as darts, bows and arrows, and missile-firing toys and do not allow your children to play with non-powder rifles, pellet guns or BB guns. These items are extremely dangerous and have been reclassified as firearms and removed from toy departments.
• Keep all chemicals and sprays, such as sink cleaners or oven cleaners, out of reach of small children.
• Fireworks are a definite no-no! Do not allow children to ignite fireworks or stand near others who are doing so. All fireworks are potentially dangerous for children of all ages.
• Do not allow children in the yard while a lawnmower is in use. Stones and debris thrown from moving blades can cause severe eye injuries.
Whenever possible, evaluate your surroundings and try to think of all the things that can go wrong. Then set your child in that environment and implement as many safety measures as it takes to keep him safe. Medical technology can accomplish much but it may not be able to replace your child’s sight. However, you can prevent the need from occurring.
Set an example. Demonstrate the use of protective eyewear to children by always wearing it yourself when using power tools, rotary mowers, line lawn trimmers or while hammering. Children will learn by your example.

Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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