The festival of lights, Diwali, is among the most awaited and the most widely celebrated festival of the nation. Diwali is rightly synonymous with brightness and the dazzling night sky, a lot of which is credited to the crackers that we burst during at this time. While that shine certainly fills everyone’s spirit with joy, if not handled with care the same can become tools of a mishap during such a festive occasion. Improper handling of fireworks accounts for hundreds and more injuries every year. The second-most commonly affected part of the body is the eye, one of the most delicate structures. Even a minor damage to the eye can cause permanent injury and can cause permanent impairment of vision. Children are at high risk but the maximum risk of eye injuries lies with the bystanders.
Small crackers can lead to minor burns in the eyelashes, eyelids or the skin while the heavy crackers can severely damage the eye. Sparklers are reported extremely dangerous as they burn at extremely high temperatures. Debris left after extensive fireworks also become a cause of worry as do the chemicals that are often left in your hands from the crackers.
Some DO’s and DON’Ts that can be kept in mind for the safety of one’s eyes during Diwali are:
- Children should be allowed to burst crackers only under adult supervision. The fireworks must also be stored very carefully, away from the possibility of excessive heat or fire.
- Keep a safe distance of at least an arm’s length while lighting the firecrackers and of about five meters while watching them burst.
- Wear protective glasses while bursting crackers as the sparkle released from the crackers contain many harmful chemicals, some of which are even radioactive elements. These sparks, the particles or concentrated fumes can lead to eye irritation, redness, infections, etc. Also, excessive smog too can have an effect on the visuals.
- After burning the firecrackers, thoroughly wash your hands. Be careful of not getting your bare hands after bursting crackers near your eyes. Any rub or touch can develop into eye infections due to the chemicals that might be left in your hand from the crackers.
- Keep a bucket of water around to defuse the used fireworks properly.
- Ensure you are in an empty, open space while lighting the firecrackers.
- Experts suggest not to wear contact lenses before stepping out around a firecracker during Diwali. This is so because long-term exposure to direct heat or sparks with contact lenses on can cause irritation in the eyes.
- The smoke from the particles tends to make the eyes itchy. But do not rub your eyes and make way for infections. Instead, use a cotton pad.
- Be careful of the material of your clothes. Do not wear synthetic clothes or dupattas as they catch fire easily. Wear light cotton clothes instead.
- Ensure that the crackers are not in the vicinity of lamps or candles.
- Avoid using stones, bottles or tins to hold a rocket or a cracker while lighting it up as bursting of these fireworks can also, eject tiny pieces of the object used into the surrounding at high speed, increasing the risk of injury.
- Do not buy uncertified crackers. Purchase the ones with ISO approval.
A tear in the eye or detachment of the retina, bleeding inside the eye or an injury to the optic nerve and cornea can cause permanent loss of vision. The number of eye injuries being reported during Diwali has been significant and must be avoided by being more aware and taking necessary precautions. Depending on the velocity or the intensity with which a particle has hit the eye or the extent of exposure to the heat or the chemical and the manner in which it has reached the eye are some ways that determine the extent of the injury.
THINGS TO DO IN CASE OF AN EYE INJURY
- Reach out for medical help immediately. It is always better to receive professional care.
- Wash your eyes gently with clean water, do not rub them as that will cause further damage. Clean your hands before washing the eyes.
- Do not apply any ointment or remedy the injury at home without the knowledge of what has happened.
- Apply a cotton patch to the injury and seek medical help.
- Check if the person can open or see with the eye to judge the severity of the injury.
BY: Dr. Kavya Nagaraj- Department- Cornea Consultant – Sankara Eye Hospital