Eye injuries in children increase during summer months. Here’s how to prevent them.

UAB expert discusses summer eye hazards and how to mitigate the risk of kids’ being injured.

stream eye injuriesUAB expert discusses summer eye hazards and how to mitigate the risk of kids’ being injured.Children are at increased risk for eye injuries in the summer, according to University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers. Eye injuries are much more common in May and June before reaching a peak in July, then falling off as school begins in the fall.

“Sports are a leading cause of eye injury in children age 15 or younger, specifically swimming,” said Gerald McGwin Jr. Ph.D., a professor in the UAB departments of Epidemiology and Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

He notes that pool chemicals, which can cause eye irritation, play a prominent role in these injuries, as does being hit by water toys or flying elbows and feet. 

“Ensuring that a pool’s pH level is within normal range is one way to reduce these injuries,” McGwin said. “Goggles and swim masks are another way by providing a barrier between eyes and water.”

McGwin also stresses that eye protection for children of any age while playing sports is important. Basketball, swimming and pool activities top the list of injury inducers in sports, with baseball, softball and guns (air, gas, spring and BB) following close behind.

Sparklers and firecrackers head the list of fireworks-induced injury, with sparklers causing nearly half of all injuries in children less than 5 years of age. Sparklers can reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. McGwin recommends leaving fireworks to professionals when celebrating holidays this summer.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that families should be counseled to attend public displays of fireworks and refrain from using fireworks at home,” McGwin said.

UAB Callahan Eye is a nationally ranked comprehensive center which provides everything from preventive and routine eye care to 24/7 emergency treatment. Make an appointment today at 844-UAB-EYES.

McGwin also notes that an often-underrecognized cause of eye injuries throughout the year is household cleaners and chemicals, particularly for younger children. McGwin says that, for children under 2, household chemicals make up more than 30 percent of injuries. For children 2 and older, pens and pencils play a significant role.

“The most startling observation is how many young children under 2 years of age suffer eye injuries from household chemicals,” McGwin said. “The obvious solution for parents and caregivers is to keep dangerous chemicals and substances locked up or out of the reach of children at all times.”

If there is one piece of good news regarding children’s eye safety, it is that the number of eye injuries among children 15 or younger is going down. From a high of more than 80,000 in 1992, the number has consistently dropped to a low of slightly more than 40,000 in 2021.

“The majority of eye injuries are treatable,” McGwin said. “But the best treatment is to prevent eye injuries in the first place.”