Department of Health: While Enjoying Summer Activities, Take Steps to Protect Your Eyes

HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of Health is urging all Pennsylvanians to take steps to prevent eye injuries that can occur more frequently during the summer months.

“During the summer, many children and adults are staying active by playing outside and taking part in organized or recreational sports,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “While we need people to take additional precautions as part of COVID-19 when participating these types of activities, it is also very important that individuals take the proper steps to protect their eyes from serious injuries. Eye injuries can be severe and impact an individual’s future and entire way of life.”

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, while many eye injuries occur on the job, nearly half of all eye injuries occur in the home. These include conducting home repairs, yard work, cleaning and cooking. More than 40 percent of eye injuries each year are related to sports or recreational activities. The sun can also damage eyes, which is why it is important to wear sunglasses and sport-appropriate UV-protective goggles.

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Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States, and most injuries that are reported in school-aged children are sports-related. These injuries account for nearly 100,000 physician visits each year and cost more than $175 million.

Sports-related eye injuries are very common. Sports, where most eye injuries occur, include baseball and softball, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, and racquet sports. Baseball is the most common cause of sports-related eye injuries for children ages 5 to 14. Basketball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries for teens and adults ages 15 to 64.

Ninety percent of eye injuries can be prevented through wearing protective eyewear, including safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards. Ordinary prescription glasses, contacts and sunglasses do not protect against eye injuries.

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As part of COVID-19, it is important to take steps to protect yourself from the spread of the virus while participating in organized sports. Everyone must wear a face covering, such as a mask, unless they fall under an exception to the Sec. of Health mask-wearing order. Coaches, athletes and spectators must wear face coverings, unless they are outdoors and can consistently maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet. Athletes are not required to wear face coverings while actively engaged in workouts and competition that prevent the wearing of face coverings, but must wear face coverings when on the sidelines, in the dugout, etc. and any time 6 feet of social distancing is not possible.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have suffered an eye injury, it is important to seek medical treatment. Some eye issues, such as a detached retina, can only be detected by a doctor during an examination. Even eye injuries that seem minor at first should be checked out, as serious eye issues can cause vision loss or blindness.

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