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WVU expert advises eye safety for kids during summer activities and fireworks

BUCKHANNON — With summer in full swing and the Fourth of July approaching, Dr. Geoff Bradford, a pediatric ophthalmologist at West Virginia University School of Medicine, shares crucial tips for keeping children’s eyes safe.

“During the summer, many people partake in fun outdoor activities that they may not necessarily be aware pose a potential risk for eye injuries,” Dr. Bradford said.

One such activity is fireworks, a leading cause of eye injuries during the summer months.

“Although the risk of injury may not be the first thing that comes to mind when shooting off fireworks, we commonly see children and adults admitted to our emergency department for facial and eye injuries caused by firework explosions,” Dr. Bradford said. “We always advise people to operate with extreme caution when using fireworks and to keep children back at a safe distance at all times.”

Parents should also be cautious when using hand-held sparklers, which burn at temperatures up to 3,000°F.

“Stray sparks can cause severe facial burns and damage to the eyes,” Bradford explained. “To reduce the risk of harm, parents need to carefully supervise their children and have them hold sparklers with their arms outstretched and angled away from their faces. Very young children should never be allowed to hold sparklers on their own.”

Longer summer days mean more exposure to sunlight. While regular sun exposure does not immediately cause eye damage, taking preventive measures such as wearing protective lenses can prevent cumulative damage over many years.

“The plastic utilized in most prescription glasses provides a level of protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays,” Bradford said. “This protection can be further amplified by tinted lenses or sunglasses.”

Parents of children who wear corrective lenses have options like prescription sunglasses or glasses with transition lenses that darken outdoors to protect their eyes from sunlight.

“Prescription sunglasses and glasses with traditional transition lenses both offer protection from UVA and UVB rays, with the main difference being transition lenses are triggered by UV light,” he explained. “This means they won’t activate inside a car where ultraviolet light is absorbed by the windows. However, the newer TransActive lenses are able to darken inside a car.”

Bradford noted that while chlorine in swimming pools may cause brief eye irritation, it typically fades quickly and doesn’t cause lasting damage. Over-the-counter artificial tears usually provide sufficient relief. Despite the generally low risk for eye injury in many popular summer activities, it’s crucial to be aware of potential dangers to prevent accidents.

“The dangers posed to eyes and vision aren’t often recognized until after accidents happen. It’s important always to be aware of those dangers during activities such as mowing grass, weed whacking and even fishing, and to take precautions such as wearing protective eyewear when necessary,” he said.

For more information on the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, visit medicine.hsc.wvu.edu/eye.

For tips on beating the heat during the summer, visit health.wvu.edu/student-health.

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