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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: How to Avoid Scratching, Shooting & Whacking Your Eye Out this Holiday Season

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It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas - How to Avoid Scratching, Shooting & Whacking Your Eye Out this Holiday Season

It’s that magical time of year! The snow is here (for some of us), carols are on the radio (my condolences to the retail workers), and the holiday season is in full swing. Whether you’re drowning in Hallmark movies, travelling to see family, prepping a Yule log, or revelling in whatever your favourite holiday traditions may be, we hope it’s a safe, warm and happy occasion for you and whomever you celebrate with. 

This is also the time our office phones start ringing with a concern that’s nearly become a tradition in and of itself:

“I scratched my eye on the Christmas tree!”

I did not realise how common this little incident was until I worked in optometry. Y’all need to learn to stand back – did you not notice it was prickly when you put it up?

Sadly, evergreen abrasions aren’t the only ocular accidents that occur this time of year. Read on for some tips on how to stay safe and enjoy this season.

Christmas Trees to the Face

I’m going to start with this one because it’s the most common. 

Every year, without fail, we get a few calls from patients who very innocently stood too close to the tree as it was released from its binds, or leaned down too fast while adding an ornament, and a branch of the tree got them in the eye. Whether it’s a poke or a scratch, it’s not fun, and there is genuine risk of a corneal abrasion. 

Corneal abrasion occurs when the protective layer at the front of the eye is essentially scratched. These can heal quickly with proper treatment, but ignored they can cause potential infection or even vision loss. 

Luckily, we’ve never had a patient not recover from a Christmas tree attack, and all went on to enjoy their holidays. 

This is the type of incident that accidentally occurs because no one is expecting it. But once experienced, it becomes second nature to keep an eye on your tree’s reach, in all directions. 

For real trees, be aware when cutting trees down, loading them into or onto a vehicle, putting them up and releasing the ties or netting. For artificial trees, be careful when pulling pieces from the box, and be sure to stand back when the branches “fall” into place. For either tree, be aware of the distance between the branches and your face while making adjustments and decorating.

Avoid Christmas Tree Attacks

Champagne Corks to the Face

This is another incident I didn’t realise was common until I noticed how often it comes up in the online optometry community. 

Did you know that champagne bottles hold pressure up to 90 psi? That’s about three times what’s in your car tires. Did you know that champagne corks can launch into speeds up to 43 km (25 miles) per hour? The American Academy of Ophthalmology cites 80 km (50 miles) per hour, but I couldn’t find a source. There are German scientists who claim the potential is there for champagne corks to reach velocities of up to 100 km (62 miles) per hour! 

So the point here is that champagne corks move very, very, very, very fast when released from their bottles. 

What does this mean for your eyes?

A champagne cork to the eye can result in various injuries, from an incredibly lucky black eye, to bleeding, abrasions, onset of cataracts, or even glaucoma. 

Reality star Theo Campbell took a champagne cork to the eye and the surprise impact split his eye in half. Gruesome but sadly true. Two surgeries weren’t able to save his sight in that eye. 

Here are some tips to pop your bubbly safely:

  • Chill your champagne to avoid any excess pressure build-up (warm bubbles create more pressure – putting your champagne in an ice bucket isn’t just for fancy appearances, it’s practical).
  • Don’t shake it – I know this one is hard. We all have fantasies of giving the bottle a good shake and popping the cork in celebratory cheer, but you’re just adding to the pressure (which means you’re also increasing the risk of injuries).
  • Point it away from everyone – maybe go outside.
  • Hold a towel over the opening of the bottle, press firmly, and twist the bottle slowly – this will allow the cork to naturally slide out without flying across the house. Less dramatic, yes, but much, much safer.

You can still enjoy your bubbly, but there are safety precautions you should take to ensure the enjoyment continues. 

Avoid Champagne Cork Attacks

Various Shiny Objects to the Face

Ribbons and tags, packages, boxes and bags. Tinsels, trappings and trimmings. 

From wayward decorations, to toys that shoot, there is no end to the things your eyes wish to avoid this holiday season. 

Children especially, as they tear like wild animals into wrapping and gift bags, are likely to catch paper or box corners to the eye. Or, as I’ve witnessed, deliver a vicious backswing to an unsuspecting sibling or cousin sitting too close. 

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely aware that a bit of attention and common sense can avoid some of the simplest injuries at any time, but especially at Christmas, when there’s just so much going on, and so much material at hand. 

Just as we’re sure you’re aware to watch little kids who put absolutely anything into their mouths, we simply ask the same care be given to watching what they pull at, tear apart and potentially swing or shoot at each other.

Final Thoughts

Holiday season injuries abound, particularly around the ocular areas of the face. We’re certainly not trying to take the fun out of your holiday parties, just raise some awareness so everyone can enjoy the season without an emergency trip to the eye doctor (or hospital – please be responsible with the bubbly). 

This year has been a whirlwind for Shelburne Optometry, and we are beyond grateful for our many patients and visitors who help us keep our dream alive. We are very excited for 2024 and all that the new year will bring. 

We want to wish all our patients and their families, as well as our fellow local businesses that support us and cheer us on, a wonderful, beautiful and very happy Christmas and holiday season. We wish you the happiest of New Years, and we look forward to continuing to help everyone see, look and feel spectacular for many years to come!

Thank you for reading, and for joining me throughout the year in these little posts I write. It means so much.

Wishing you all the best in wherever your path takes you today,

Sydney Gallant, CCOA

Written by Sydney Gallant, CCOA

Sydney is the wild card of the Shelburne Optometry Family and the ‘glue’ that keeps everything together! She brought her sense of adventure to the optical world, driven by a strong curiosity following a Lasik procedure that completely changed her quality of life. Carrying interests in every aspect of optometry, she finds anatomy the most fascinating. Operating from what she lovingly calls her “cockpit”, Sydney does her best to keep all systems running smoothly, ensuring the ship remains in the air and a unique, personalized vision care experience is shared across the galaxy of Shelburne and its surrounding areas.

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