April is Sports Eye Safety Month and with the arrival of spring, kids across our community are participating in recreational sports and activities. So, we’re offering up some eye-safety tips for parents of active kiddos.

Our eyes are arguably our most relied-upon sense, but we regularly take them for granted. Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States, and studies suggest that they are responsible for upwards of 100,000 visits to doctors and opticians each year.

When your child participates in the sport of their choice, we bet you make sure they have all of the body protection that they need, whether it be a helmet, knee or elbow pads, gloves or a mouthguard. However, one area that is often overlooked is the eyes. There is no legal requirement that safety eyewear be worn while playing sports, yet this could be that all that stands between your child’s eyes and severe damage or blindness.

Fortunately, when you choose the right protective eyewear for your child and instil in them the importance of wearing it, you can help to prevent them from suffering from an unnecessary eye injury. In fact, estimates suggest that as many as 90% of eye injuries can be successfully avoided with the use of protective eyewear.

What counts as protective eyewear?

This is something that confuses many people. Protective eyewear is not regular glasses, contact lenses or sunglasses. While these may offer your child slight protection against things like dust going into their eyes or the glare of direct sunlight, they are not a substitute for proper protective eyewear like:

  • Safety glasses and goggles
  • Safety shields
  • Eye guards designed for a particular sport

What makes these items different is both their design and the material used to make them. Protective eyewear is made from an ultra-strong material known as polycarbonate. Polycarbonate has the ability to withstand ten times the impact of other plastics while also remaining completely clear and not compromising your child’s vision. Many designs also encase your child’s eyes completely, increasing the protection they offer.

Is safety eyewear an option if my child wears prescription glasses or contact lenses to see clearly?

Many people think that if their child needs prescription glasses or contacts, they will not be able to use protective eyewear. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. In the majority of instances, polycarbonate protective eyewear can actually be made to match their prescriptions. This is a very good investment if your child plays their sport regularly and is very committed to it. However, other types of protective eyewear can be worn over the top of your child’s regular glasses or contacts.

What should I do if my child does suffer an eye injury?

Any sort of eye injury, whether a result of sport participation or something else, should be dealt with by a professional as quickly as possible. However, it is still extremely valuable for people to ensure that they have a fully-stocked first aid kit with the necessary equipment to offer immediate treatment if necessary. This includes a rigid eye shield and commercial eyewash that has not expired.

We’ve outlined the three types of eye injury commonly associated with sports participation and included tips on how to handle them:

If your child gets something in their eye… do NOT let them rub their eye, but instead try to flush the foreign object out using the eye wash from your first aid kit. You may have to lift the upper eyelid or lower eyelid. Do NOT be tempted to use anything to try and remove the foreign object. If it doesn’t wash out, get your child to their eye doctor.

If your child suffers a blow to the eye… apply a cold compress, but do NOT put pressure on the eye. If he or she is still suffering from pain, blurred vision or any other concerning symptoms, make an emergency appointment with their eye doctor.

If your child experiences a cut or puncture to the eye or eyelid… do NOT wash the eye out with anything and do NOT try and remove anything that may be stuck in the eye. Instead, cover it with your rigid eye shield or a makeshift alternative and get to their eye doctor immediately.

It’s important to remember you should never just assume that everything is ok. If you have any concerns about an eye injury your child has sustained, make an appointment with a trusted eye doctor at Grin Eye Care.

If you would like more information or advice on the importance of protective eyewear or youth sports eye safety—or to schedule an appointment in Olathe or Leawood—please don’t hesitate to contact Grin Eye Care at 913.829.5511.

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