A lack of available parking spots near St. Charles Avenue and the sound of marching bands in the distance can mean only one thing: Mardi Gras season is here. As our attention turns to king cakes, parade schedules, and Mardi Gras parties and balls, it’s easy to overlook the important yet not-so-obvious work it takes to stay safe during this busy time.
As a Louisiana ophthalmologist, I’m particularly concerned about the potential danger that Mardi Gras parades can pose to people’s eyes as they try to catch the best throws. Eye injuries of all types occur at a rate of more than 2,000 per day. However, simply taking a few precautions and wearing the correct eyewear can prevent more than 90% of reported eye injuries.
In my practice, the most common cause of serious eye injuries has been the result of weed whackers and other fast-moving machinery that launch projectiles like gravel at great distances and speed. The projectiles can even go as far as hitting a next-door neighbor’s eye, causing a very serious injury.
When it comes to preventing eye injuries, early detection and treatment is key. In extreme circumstances such as a penetrating eye injury, vision loss or eyelid lacerations, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has come up with some general eye safety tips for your everyday life. I have added a few notes as well that specifically relate to Mardi Gras safety for those who are new to the parading scene and may not know what to expect.
- Wear eye protection when using bungee cords, as these are a common cause of severe eye injuries. Many people use bungee cords to secure their coolers in portable wagons on their way to the parade route, or in the trunks of their cars to keep things from sliding around. Be careful with these very springy elastic tools, and don’t let children play with them either.
- Have fun in the sun, but always wear sunglasses when outdoors for extended periods of time. Sunburn is one of the most common injuries during Mardi Gras — that may seem strange, but it’s true! It is a lot brighter out than you may realize, even when there is cloud cover. Find the right shades to block dangerous UV rays and add your own personal flair after to make them Mardi Gras season appropriate.
- When it comes to kids and throws, avoid retrieving any toys with sharp edges. Swords are a very popular item that kids can hardly wait to catch. Make sure if your children are play-battling with plastic or foam swords that they maintain an appropriate distance from the face and eyes to avoid any accidental injuries.
- Accidentally left your lights on while out at a night parade? My condolences! Always keep a pair of safety glasses or goggles with your jumper cables and follow instructions carefully when jump-starting a dead car battery.
Here are some other general eye safety rules. They don’t apply specifically to Mardi Gras, but they are good suggestions for preventing eye injuries 365 days a year.
- Never using fireworks. Even sparklers burn hot enough to melt gold.
- Be careful with household chemicals, since many can burn your eyes’ delicate tissue.
- Always wear appropriate eye protection when playing sports.
- Check for rocks and debris before mowing the lawn or trimming the hedges.
- Wear goggles during yard work or when performing other chores that require the use of heavy machinery which can dislodge small particles and propel them at face-level.
All eye injuries should be treated as potential emergencies, so do not hesitate to contact your eye doctor immediately if something goes wrong. You only get one pair of eyes, so be sure you do everything you can to protect yours!
Your Vision Is Important To Us. Make an appointment with the Ochsner Eye Center.