The most common complaints for fire victims are smoke irritation, and foreign bodies in the eye.
Recommended Treatment – Wash the eye with a sterile eyewash, squeezing the bottle to regulate flow.
The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital treats in excess of 100,000 outpatients annually, many as a result of accidents caused by carelessness.
The Hospital sees its role as going much further than just treating the victims of accidents – important as that is – and believes it has a duty to get out into the community with a public education programme to try to cut down the needlessly high number of eye injuries caused by carelessness and lack of attention to basic safety precautions. This has been estimated to be as great as 95% of the eye injuries treated in the casualty departments of Australian hospitals.
How much is your sight worth? Insurance actuaries put a dollar value on it when drawing up benefits tables for accident policies, but in terms of overall value our sight is priceless.
Here then is the bargain of the year – free tips that could save your sight or that of someone close to you.
An alarming number of eye injuries we see involve children. Whilst some adults are becoming aware of eye protection, our youngsters are still taking some terrible risks.
Several injuries are sustained from sharp objects such as darts, knives, also from the misuse of sharp tools such as screwdrivers. Missiles thrown from motor mowers are a hazard for children as is the indiscriminate use of air rifles. Naturally, we should try and avoid having children exposed to these dangers but at times, with high-spirited children, accidents are unavoidable.
So, whenever a child comes presenting with a sore, red eye, assume an injury. Don’t rely on what the child tells you as they may be trying to avoid telling of their involvement with some forbidden object. Do not delay in seeking medical attention.
A blow to the eye from a blunt object is often treated lightly once the original pain has passed. This can lead to loss of sight from a secondary bleeding inside the eye which may take place several days after the accident occurred.
Treatment of these injuries usually means complete bed-rest in hospital with both eyes covered – this minimizes the chance of internal secondary bleeding.
There are many causes of these injuries where the eye is not cut or penetrated.
Highest single cause is squash. A squash ball is particularly dangerous as it is a similar size to the eye socket and hits with great impact. Ball-games accounted for nearly half the admissions to this hospital from injuries over the past twelve months.
Wearing eye protection during sport and at work would prevent most of these accidents.
The instinctive reaction is to pull a penetrating object from the eye at once. DON’T DO IT – there is more damage done by pulling things out than the original penetration.
You have no idea what is on the other end of the piece of wire sticking in the eye or the splinter of wood, jagged lump of metal or whatever has gone in. It could have a hook or cutting edge that could do untold damage to the delicate structure of the eye as it comes out. Our surgeons insist on an accurate X-ray before attempting removal of such an object surgically.
The other important reason is that the object is acting as a plug and preventing the contents of the eye from coming out.
The eye contains liquid under pressure – remove the plug and the eye can collapse.
Most of us know that every chemical has an antidote – another chemical which can neutralize the effect of the chemical.
Our advice if you get a chemical splash in an eye is to forget any antidotes and wash the eye immediately with plenty of cold running water for at least 15 minutes – then see a doctor.
Imagine you have an eyeful of some burning, blinding chemical. Think how long it would take in this distressed state to identify the chemical/s, look in the medicine chest (if you have one) for the antidote chart (if you have one) find the antidote (if you have any) and apply it to the eye.
During all that time the damage is getting worse – particularly if it’s an alkaline burn.
Get the head straight under the tap or the eye washing equipment and you do two things – dilute the chemical and wash it out.
If someone gets careless with acid it worries anyone who sees it. Alkalines are a different matter; few people realize that an alkaline burn is worse for the eye than an acid burn.
This is because alkaline actually combines with the protein of the eye to make a particularly deep blinding burn. Usually an alkaline burn goes so deep that sight can never be restored.
Lime is a potent cause of blindness and yet is treated very casually in industrial situations and around homes.
Many people are blind today as a result of lime burns.
Think about a few other chemicals around most homes that are treated carelessly.
The list is endless – weedicides, pesticides, bleach, caustic over cleaners, adhesives, plastic fillers, kerosene, detergents, disinfectants, cement and various kinds of sprays.
We have treated a number of injuries resulting from careless use of steam – the resulting pressure cooked eye is not a pretty sight. It is also permanently blinding.
A police .38 pistol is a dangerous weapon. Agreed?
A rotary lawn mower can eject a stone from its blades at a faster velocity than a bullet from the .38! (Pistol – between 980 and 1280 ft per second. Mower – between 1200 and 1300 ft per second.)
You wouldn’t want your children or friends standing around if someone was firing a pistol indiscriminately on your front lawn, so keep them inside away from the mower. A speeding stone, dog bone, bit of wood or length of wire has a disastrous effect on an eye.
Very few – if any – gamblers would be stupid enough to back a horse if the odds were so bad they could only get their OWN money back IF the horse wins.
That is exactly the odds when people work without their safety eye protection.
There is no way which they can be better off if they get away with it and no accident takes place. The best they can hope for is to stay the same as they were before. Their sight will certainly not improve.
What if they are not so lucky? Blindness at worst and varying degrees of pain and impairment in between.
Don’t risk it! There are statistics to show the dramatic drop in eye injuries in plants where total eye protection has been brought in as a compulsory measure. These companies have had full backing from concerned unions and co-operation from shop stewards who realize the importance of protecting their members from the injuries which could jeopardise their suitability for useful employment. Approved safety eyewear protects from the three main types of injury mentioned in this article – the blunt blow, penetrating wounds and chemical splashes.
These are the days of “do-it-yourself” and at the weekend many of us who are not tradesmen during our working hours become what we believe to be the world’s best motor mechanics, carpenters, fitters and turners, etc., and we get down the yard, in the shed or garage using all sorts of power and hand tools.
You can save a lot of money this way. You can also get a serious do-it-yourself eye injury, and we are seeing more and more of these every year.
The home workman doesn’t have the benefit of an enlightened management actively promoting an eye safety campaign. If he has goggles they are likely to be hung on a nail somewhere gathering dust. “Safety glasses are only for factory workers aren’t they?” he would say if asked why he wasn’t wearing them.
Hammering steel on steel is the cause of far too many serious eye injuries. Two hardened surfaces hitting together produce steel chips which fly with great velocity and penetrate deep into eyes.
Motor mechanics are the worst offenders.
Don’t risk your sight when hammering. Use a brass or copper drill, a plastic hammer or rubber mallet. Don’t invite trouble by hammering steel on steel.
Every one of the people admitted to this hospital with eye injuries believed it couldn’t have happened to them – until it did. Then in a split second they knew they were wrong, and it had happened.
Like the dentist who was hit in the eye with a champagne cork, the factory supervisor who scratched his eye deeply while pruning roses, the school boy who became permanently blind when lime splashed into his eyes as he was marking an athletic track, the boiler attendant who hit a stuck safety-valve with a hammer and suffered terrible injury when it disintegrated.
These are just a few of the people who have come to us recently for help. There are hundreds more. Some were working without eye protection. Some thought seat-belts were just as effective if you sat on them instead of wearing them. Others pried lids off tins with scissors or screwdrivers. Many were hit by stones and sticks. Still more were careless with explosives and guns.
Eye danger lurks everywhere but awareness of the problems may save your sight. It has been estimated that 95% of eye injuries are caused by carelessness and half of all blindness is preventable. Take our tip – THINK SAFETY AND ACT SAFELY!