DIY enthusiasts are being urged to look after their senses after a Specsavers’ survey1 reveals that most people are failing to use any kind of protective equipment at home.
Specsavers has seen a rise in DIY-related eye injuries throughout Ireland during the pandemic and customers have been treated for an array of incidents, including foreign objects in the eye.
Yet despite this, more than 85% of people are not using eye and hearing protection to look after their vital senses. Only 14% of people admit to wearing safety goggles and only 5% admitting to wearing hearing protection while using DIY or gardening machinery at home.
Incidents on the Rise
Optometrist and store director, Kerril Hickey has seen a rise in eye injuries over the last six months.
‘We are continuing to see people in our testing rooms with problems that could be easily avoided with the correct safety protection. Given how valuable our senses are to us, it is important that you are cautious when carrying out any activity which might lead to a foreign body entering the eye, such as chopping firewood, pruning in the garden, drilling or grinding, and that suitable eye protection is worn,’ he says.
‘In the event that an injury occurs, call your local store where an optometrist will be able to discuss the best course of action with you.’
Decibels in the Home
The research also reveals that almost a third of people (30%) believed that their hearing was better protected during lockdown, even though many loud sounds around our homes and gardens can potentially damage hearing if repeatedly exposed to over long periods of time. These include washing machines (75db), doorbells and electric shavers (80db), a vacuum cleaner (85db), a blender (90db) and a hairdryer (95db).
When it comes to our gardens, using a lawnmower to cut the grass can be particularly detrimental to our hearing, as typically these measure at 110db. Audiologist and store director, Orla Walsh, says: ‘To put this into context, normal levels of conversation are about 65db and things like concerts can reach 110db, so when using noisy lawnmowers, it is best practice to wear ear defenders or hearing protection.’
Below Mr Hickey provides advice on DIY danger areas and the action you should take if you do have an eye injury. However, prevention is better than cure and suitable protection is always the best solution.
DIY EYE HAZARDS
Trimming the hedge: ‘Twigs in the eye are incredibly common – sometimes people may fail to notice the tip of a branch as they lean over to prune a hedge or push piles of twigs into the bin. This can cause anything from small scratches to ripping off layers of the cornea which can be extremely painful.’
Mowing and strimming: ‘Watch out for objects hidden in your lawn that could be caught up and spat out by your lawnmower or strimmer, like rogue clothes pegs for example.’
Handling irritants: ‘It’s so important to avoid touching or rubbing your eye as there are chemicals which can burn the eye and even plants that can cause severe allergic reactions. We have treated reactions that have caused significant swelling or have caused tiny blood vessels to leak and cause extreme redness.’
Power tools and pressure washers: ‘Take extra care using power tools and pressure washers that can cause foreign objects to fly into the eye at speed. Specsavers once treated a man who had used electric shearers on a hedge concealing a wire fence – he thought it was a piece of bark that was causing his eye pain but when we examined him we realised it was actually a small piece of metal which had lodged itself right inside his eye.’
Paint, solvents and chemicals: ‘Paint can contain chemicals that are severe irritants while substances with a high alcohol content – even alcohol-based hand gel for example – can be a real danger as it can remove the epithelium…the layer of tissue that covers the cornea.’ Strong alkalis such as caustic soda and wet plaster and cement are also very harmful to the eyes.
Joinery: ‘This can be a key culprit of foreign objects in the eye. Don’t risk hammering without safety goggles on as it’s so easy for a nail or flint to spark back up into the eye’.
DIY SOS: WHAT TO DO
Foreign object in eye: ‘The more you blink the more damage you can potentially cause. Imagine it like a leaf stuck on your windscreen wipers…it will keep scraping and scratching. Try to flush it out, and if need be use your eyelashes to lift the eyelid off the surface of your eye while you do so. See your optician who can swab to remove the foreign body and apply an antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection and lubricate the eye with a gel or ointment for up to three months to prevent a recurrence of the scratch.’
Chemicals or solvents in the eye: ‘Irrigate, irrigate, irrigate! It’s essential to flush out the eye immediately with water. Tilt your head so the water runs across your eye towards your ear… you don’t want it running in the other direction where it could potentially transfer chemicals into your other eye. Alkali substances are so dangerous that time really is of the essence - so use any water source you have to hand and flush out for a good 20-30 minutes as well as seeking urgent medical assistance.’
Cuts: ‘If you get a cut on the outside of your eye, on your eyelid for example, clean it out and treat it like you would with any other scratch – keeping it clean and dry and applying antiseptic ointment if need be – and attend A&E if you think stitches are required. If, however, the cut or scratch is on the eyeball itself and is causing pain or visual disturbance you should definitely seek help from an optician.’
Black eye: ‘Many black eyes will heal by themselves within a few weeks, but if you do experience problems with your vision, issues focusing up close, pain in reaction to light or distortion of lines, speak to your optician. In extreme circumstances, a significant bump could cause iritis, retinal detachment or bruising of the layer beneath the retina.’
Perforated eyeball: ‘While some eye injuries may cause an eye to water, a perforated eyeball is much more serious and can release fluid from inside the eyeball, reducing the pressure in the eye and may cause severe infection which can travel to the brain. If the eyeball is perforated, your vision will usually be severely reduced (only able to see movement, or possibly nothing at all). This is a medical emergency and we’d recommend going straight to hospital for treatment.’