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Preventing Eye Injuries—In the Home and on the Fourth

separator Was your grandmother right? Can sitting too close to the television ruin your eyes? What about reading in poor light? Does that place a “strain” on your vision?

We like to believe in the wisdom of our elders, but in this case, there’s no evidence they were right. On the other hand, there are some things you might do on a regular basis that you never even think of as hazardous to your eyes.

Most injuries occur at home
According to Margie Schmidt, Communications Manager at Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, “OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has improved the rate of workplace eye injuries. Now, there are more eye injuries at home.”

Some of the dangers include:
Cutting the grass: Stones and other materials can fly into the face of the person cutting the grass and anybody standing nearby. “You should wear goggles when you cut the grass,” says Schmidt. “I make my husband wear them. If people could see the kinds of injuries that happen, they’d wear goggles too. ”

Jump starting your car battery: You need to make sure the battery doesn’t blow up when you’re giving your car a jump. Some guidelines include: turn off lights, heater and all electrical loads; set parking brakes; make sure both batteries are the same voltage; cover the vent caps of both batteries with a damp cloth. DO NOT: try to jump a vehicle that has a frozen battery; allow the two vehicles to touch; allow the jumper cables to touch; lean over the battery when making connections.

Being exposed to sunlight: Sunglasses don’t just feel better on a bright day—they help protect the long-term health of your eyes. Ophthalmologists recommend that you wear UV-absorbent sunglasses and a brimmed hat whenever you’re in the sun long enough to get a suntan or a sunburn.

Fireworks can cause blindness
Household eye injuries are serious business, but don’t forget the number one cause of eye trauma: fireworks. Margie Schmidt explains, “There are 2,000 injuries each year from fireworks, and one third of those cause permanent blindness.”

Just ask Jody Eder-Zdechlik, a 40-year-old mother of five from Lakeland, Minnesota. When she was two years old, she lost her eye in a fireworks accident. “We were at a family gathering for the Fourth of July. We had bottle rockets, and you know how you set them on the ground and then run away? Well, somebody accidentally bumped the bottle so it wasn’t pointing straight up. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bottle went straight for my eye.”

She went through four surgeries to try to save the eye, but in the end, the eye was lost. “I’m actually lucky,” says Eder-Zdechlik. “I wasn’t hit between the eyes or on the temple. I could easily have become completely blind.”

She’s not a woman who’s let one lost eye hold her back. Eder-Zdechlik ran cross country track and field at the University of Minnesota, and she’s held the record for the fastest time for the past 17 years. And now she’s raising five children.

But it hasn’t always been easy. “Junior high kids can be ruthless. They say horrible things. It was hard sometimes growing up. I’m sensitive now. I have five children, and I really try to teach them to appreciate the differences in people.”

“In a way, since I was so young, losing an eye was easier for me. I never knew what it was like to have two eyes. I’ve seen older kids who’ve lost an eye, and they had to make a big adjustment.”

A message for the Fourth
Eder-Zdechlik’s family doesn’t watch fireworks on the Fourth of July. “It does bring sadness. It was so traumatic for my family.

“People don’t believe it can happen to them,” she says. “Think twice before you buy fireworks. Even sparklers are dangerous, because they get so hot. No matter how careful you are, you can be an innocent bystander, or you could be someone who causes an accident.”

Judy Eder-Zdechlik; Phillips Eye Institute; Prevent Blindness America.
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