New Year’s Eve is just around the corner!
As you watch the ball drop in Times Square, don’t drop the ball on eye safety. We all want to have a good time but also get home in one piece.
In recent years, public awareness of the dangers of drunk driving has been rising. Most people know to take an Uber home or use a designated driver—common-sense safety precautions.
This year, take some similarly simple precautions so that your eyes are as safe and sound as the rest of you when you take on 2019.
The American Association of Ophthalmology designates December “Safe Toys and Celebrations Month” to highlight practices that prevent eye injury around the holidays.
Safety Issues to be aware of this season include auto accidents, pedestrian accidents, slips on ice—no surprise for mid-winter.
But, did you know that more pedestrians are killed on New Year’s Day than any other day of the year? Or that this holiday is one of the two busiest days of the year in hospital emergency rooms?
There are also non-fatal accidents that are linked to this holiday in particular—including those that cause injury to the eyes.
Some common causes of New Year’s Eve eye injuries are wayward champagne corks, fireworks, celebratory gunfire, and small debris like confetti and glitter.
Avoid eye injury as you ring in 2019 by following these five steps.
1. Know How To Open A Bottle of Bubbly Correctly
The risk posed to eyes from stray champagne corks is so significant that the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) addressed it directly with its own how-to guide to uncorking.
On their “Do” list is chilling the bottle and controlling the cork with your hand over the top as you remove the wire.
On the “Don’t” list is pointing the bottle at people or using a corkscrew for champagne or anything else bubbly.
And in that final step of twisting the bottle as you hold the cork, remember to put a towel over the top. You’ll still hear a pop, but the towel will catch the flying cork, which can travel at speeds of up to 50 mph.
Wayward corks can cause scratches, corneal abrasions, and even glaucoma—not something you want to add to your celebrations. It just takes a minute to learn how to uncork sparkling wine safely. If you’re a visual person who needs to see a demo, check out this EyeSmart video from the AAO on YouTube.
2. Open Holiday Crackers and Streamer Poppers Far Away From Faces
Optometrists who have been practicing for a while have seen corneal abrasions and scratches from all sorts of things. Some are completely unexpected, but some patterns do emerge, as well.
One such pattern in eye injury around New Year’s scratches on the surface of the eyeball from confetti, streamers, and glitter. Some are superficial, some serious and potentially blinding.
The Review of Optometry describes “the potential for ocular injuries due to ‘party poppers’ (hand-held, bottle-shaped plastic party favors that emit a shower of streamers and confetti when a string is pulled) [which] can cause burns to the skin and eye if fired at close range.”
Should a small foreign object get lodged in your eye, follow these first aid steps from the Mayo Clinic and seek immediate medical attention.
3. Minimize Your Exposure To Fireworks
Alcohol consumption and pyrotechnics do not go well together.
Fireworks are not the safest way to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
If you must partake in them, stay sober and practice common sense, especially keeping the recommended distances. State laws on fireworks can vary widely. Check what kinds of fireworks, if any, are legal where you are celebrating.
Time Magazine reported that each year there are more than 10,000 injuries from at-home fireworks and that the smaller and seemingly safer ones actually do a lot of damage: “Around 40% of injuries came from small devices like bottle rockets and sparklers in 2013, and children under five experienced a higher rate of fireworks injury than any other age group.”
Don’t let your first act of 2019 be injuring your eyes—or any other part of you.
4. Avoid Settings That Might Include Celebratory Gunfire
This tradition is more common in some parts of the country than in others, but it is extremely dangerous everywhere.
One study estimated that on average in a single state, two people die each year and dozens are injured from celebratory gunfire on New Year’s.
While shooting into the air may seem harmless, clearly it is not: “bullets can return to the ground at speeds greater than 200 ft./sec., a sufficient force to penetrate the human skull and cause serious injury or death,” according to the same study.
In many cases, it’s impossible to tell where the bullet came from, as in the case of a 10-year-old Maryland girl who collapsed after stepping outside her home on New Year’s, as a bullet from celebratory gunfire somewhere in the neighborhood found an unintended target. She was just one of an estimated eight people who died that New Year’s from celebratory gunfire.
5. Walk Sober. Yes, Walk
We mentioned drunk driving earlier, but we should point out that drunk walking can also be dangerous.
New Year’s Eve is actually even more dangerous for pedestrians than Halloween is.
Where Halloween may see more people out and about on the streets, New Year’s Eve has one factor that Halloween typically does not—alcohol. Half the pedestrians killed on New Year’s had high blood alcohol levels. This is compared to just over a third of pedestrian fatalities on any other night of the year.
Slips and falls are a common source of eye injury on a typical day. Along with physical fighting, slips and falls account for most of the eye injuries that land patients in the hospital. Walking in icy conditions or in the dark only heightens the risk of going down and banging your head or face on the way. Slippery dress shoes or heels add to the risk, as well.
Eye injury is not a good way to ring in the new year, so whether you’re drinking or not, be sure to walk safely. If you want to see stars, tune in to the Times Square special.