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Eye Safety During Hurricane Season

8 min read  |  June 04, 2024  | 

This hurricane season, while stocking up on toilet paper, drinking water and flashlight batteries, don’t forget your eye care essentials and protection.

What should I pack in my evacuation bag?

  • extra pair of eyeglasses with a hard case
  • extra pair of contact lenses in sealed pouches
  • 1 contact lens case
  • 2 bottles of contact lens solution (Do not use water to clean your contacts. Water isn’t sterile, and bacteria can be present in the water and cause serious eye infections.)
  • 1-2 bottles of artificial tears/eye lubricant
  • microfiber lens cloth
  • eyeglass repair kit
  • copy of your eyeglass prescription (can be saved on your phone)
  • 1-2 bottles of prescription eye drops
  • post operative protective night shields for recent eye surgery
  • sunglasses (100% UV or UV400 to block both UV-A and UV-B rays)
  • eye protection: broad-brimmed hats/caps, safety goggles, visors
  • alcohol wipes

Protect your eyes during and after a storm

Situations can get chaotic during and after a storm. While protecting your family and property, or helping a neighbor, don’t forget to protect your eyes from strong winds, flying debris and the sun’s damaging UV rays. Clouds don’t block UV light.

Wear broad-brimmed hats, sunglasses or protective goggles to avoid eye cancers, eye disease and injury. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, wearing proper protective eyewear reduces 90% your risk of an eye injury and vision loss. Wear sunglasses that provide 100% UV or UV400 protection, or block both UV-A and UV-B rays.

First aid treatment for eye injuries

  • DO NOT touch, rub or apply pressure to an injured eye.
  • DO NOT try to remove any objects stuck in the eye.
  • DO NOT apply ointment or medication to an injured eye.
  • Over-the-counter eye drops can be more painful or make the injury worse.
  • Prescription medications should only be used for exactly the condition they were prescribed for, not for emergency treatment.

Eye scratches

Confronting serious storms can be a cause of danger for your eyes, including getting a scratched eye. You might have symptoms right away or the symptoms may start or get worse hours after the injury.

Common symptoms of a scratched eye include eye pain, a feeling that something is stuck in your eye and tearing. If you’ve scratched the white part of your eye, you may see a spot of blood, a scratched line or an area of general redness on your conjunctiva or sclera. If you’ve scratched or scraped your cornea — the clear, round dome at the front of the eye, that covers the iris and pupil — you may experience more severe symptoms including blurry vision, sensitivity to light and headache. This is called a corneal abrasion, and it can permanently affect your vision. It’s important to see an ophthalmologist right away. It’s important not to use any eye drops without first asking a doctor.

  • Do rinse your eye with saline solution or clean water. If you don’t have an eyecup, use a small, clean glass. Rest the rim of the glass on the bone at the base of your eye socket, below your lower eyelid. The water or saline solution may flush the foreign object from your eye.
  • Do blink. Blinking can help get rid of small bits of dust or sand in your eye.
  • Do pull your upper eyelid over your lower eyelid. The lashes from your lower eyelid may be able to brush away any foreign object caught underneath your upper eyelid.
  • Do wear sunglasses. If your eye is sensitive to light because of the scratch, sunglasses will make you more comfortable while you heal.
  • DO NOT rub your eye. Rubbing your eye can make the scratch worse.
  • DO NOT touch your eye with anything. Fingers, cotton swabs and other objects won’t help remove any foreign objects and could hurt your eye more. The object that caused the scratch may be gone even though you still feel like something is in your eye.
  • DO NOT wear your contact lenses. Wearing your contact lenses will slow the healing process and could cause complications, like contact lens-related infections.
  • DO NOT use redness-relieving eye drops. Over-the-counter redness-reducing eye drops can be painful if you have an eye scratch, and they won’t help you heal any faster.
  • If you’re in a lot of pain, are having any trouble seeing or are worried about your eye, go to the emergency room.

Small particles in the eye

Getting sand, dirt, dust or other small natural particles in your eye is usually not an emergency. Our eyes are very good at flushing out these kinds of particles with tears and blinking. Let your eyes try to take care of the particles naturally before doing anything else.

But, if you get metal, glass or other man-made materials in your eye, that can be more serious. These kinds of objects can become embedded in the surface of the eye and cause ongoing irritation and more damage.

  • Do blink several times and allow tears to flush out the particle.
  • DO NOT rub your eyes.
  • Do lift the upper eyelid over the lashes of your lower lid to let the eyelashes try to brush the particle out.
  • Use eyewash, saline solution or running tap water to flush the eye out.
  • If you can’t get the particles out of your eye, or if it still feels like there’s something in your eye after you’ve gotten the material out, see a doctor as soon as possible or go to the emergency room.

Hit in the eye with an object

  • Gently apply a small cold compress to reduce pain and swelling.
  • DO NOT use steaks or other food items. These can get bacteria into the eye.
  • DO NOT apply any pressure.
  • Even a light blow can cause a significant eye injury, like a retinal detachment. If a black eye, pain or visual disturbance occurs even after a light blow, immediately contact your ophthalmologist or emergency room.

Eye cuts or punctures

  • Gently place a shield (protective cover) over the eye. The bottom of a paper cup taped to the bones surrounding the eye can serve as a shield until you get medical attention.
  • DO NOT press the shield against the eye.
  • DO NOT rinse with water.
  • DO NOT remove any objects that are stuck in the eye.
  • DO NOT rub or apply pressure to eye.
  • DO NOT take aspirin, ibuprofen or other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs thin the blood and may increase bleeding.
  • After you have finished protecting the eye, get emergency medical help.

Chemical burns and splashes in the eye

  • Seek emergency medical treatment right away.
  • Immediately flush the eye with plenty of clean water.
  • Look for information on the chemical that got into the eye, and tell first responders or emergency room staff which chemical entered the eye.


Even minor vision changes shouldn’t be ignored.

Just because it isn’t painful doesn’t mean it isn’t serious. Having new floaters, flashes and blurred vision can be signs of retinal issues, such as a tear or detachment. In some cases, vision changes can be a sign of other health problems that require medical attention. Blurred vision can indicate a hypertensive crisis, a stroke, or out-of-control diabetes.

Don’t wait to see an ophthalmologist if you hurt your eyes. If you have seriously injured your eyes, don’t wait until the storm calms down to see an eye doctor. You can’t always tell when an eye is injured. Some injuries are only obvious when they get serious. Eye injuries can cause vision loss or blindness.

If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, get medical help right away:

  • ongoing pain in the eye
  • trouble seeing
  • cut or torn eyelid
  • one eye does not move as well as the other
  • one eye sticks out of the eye socket farther than the other
  • the eye has an unusual pupil size or shape
  • there is blood in the clear part of the eye
  • the person has something in the eye or under the eyelid that tears and blinking can’t remove.

Do not attempt to treat a serious eye injury yourself.

  • If you can’t see anything, ask for help. Have someone dial 911.
  • If you can see, but you think it’s serious, try to contact the closest eye doctor to your location.
  • Be sure to let your family or neighbors know if you feel you aren’t feeling well, or you’re suffering sudden vision changes or loss of vision. If you’re in a shelter, be sure to let someone in charge know of your symptoms.

Where to find research-based vision care

If you live in South Florida and need to see an ophthalmologist, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, part of the University of Miami Health System, is the nation’s leading medical institution devoted to the eye.

To arrange a rapid virtual eye care consultation, call 305-326-6000. Bascom Palmer providers will evaluate, diagnose, and may recommend treatment or prescribe medication. You may be referred or an in-person scheduled evaluation.

Schedule an appointment for continued vision care at www.bascompalmer.org.


Medically reviewed by Giselle Ricur, M.D., M.B.A., MSc, FATA, ophthalmologist, digital health specialist, and Executive Director of Virtual Care at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.


Sources

American Academy of Ophthalmology website:

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/preventing-injuries

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/injuries

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/first-aid-eye-scratches

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/injuries-protective-eyewear


Tags: Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Dr. Giselle Ricur

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