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Elkin: Talking about the importance of pediatric eye health and safety


Zachary Elkin, MD, MPH, of NYU Langone Eye Center, advises how ophthalmologists and parents should be aware of precautions that should be taken with sports involving small balls and urges the use of protective eyewear.

Zachary Elkin, MD, MPH, speaks with Ophthalmology Times®’ Sheryl Stevenson in observance of August as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. Ophthalmologists and parents should be aware of precautions that should be taken with sports involving small balls and protective eyewear. Elkin is assistant professor of ophthalmology, Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus, NYU Langone Eye Center.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Sheryl Stevenson: So we're joined today with Dr. Elkin. And it seems like a really appropriate time with August being Children's Eye Health and Safety Month to take a few moments to really talk about the importance of this. Dr. Elkin, what is the importance of raising awareness of this holiday, especially in regard to children?

Zachary Elkin, MD, MPH: Yeah, so I think we can go without saying that vision is really important for everyone and for our kids to have healthy eyes, and seeing well is important for their success in the future and whenever it's possible. And so using occasions like this just to bring awareness to some risks that can affect kids' eyes that parents and families may not be thinking about or things that we can do, because a lot of times things with kids require screening because they don't verbalize issues. And so different ways that we can make sure that kids are not going through their childhood not seeing well and having that impact their quality of life. So I love taking any opportunity to talk about ocular health in kids.

Stevenson: Absolutely. And during the summer months, you know, children are outside a lot more playing and in sports. So are there any particular things, eye injuries, or just general safety precautions that should be taken care of or should be looked at?

Elkin: Absolutely. If you look at studies of ocular injuries in kids, there is there's a whole literature on different activities that put kids at higher risk for injuries. And if you think about it anything with small balls that can be going toward the face puts the eyes at risk. We're lucky that we have a set of orbit bones around our eyes that can protect our eyes. But smaller balls, projectiles, things can cause lots of serious eye injuries. So if you've got any ball sports that your children may play, particularly ones with small balls, but also things that I do get particularly concerned with are projectiles that come out of guns.

So we're talking about things like air guns and BB guns really can cause severe damage to eyes. And so in younger children, I think it's really important that families really avoid some of these more dangerous activities and in older kids with proper supervision and with parents understanding of what the families are doing. You know, if it is reasonable to take place with some of these activities, but proper eye care always needs to be worn.

That's strong protective goggles, typically what we call polycarbonate glasses. So a strong plastic that is impact-resistant anytime projectiles are going toward the face. And you can really kind of expand that even more to routine activities with kids. So I think any child who wears glasses, if you're doing sports, the family should look into getting sort of protective eyewear—again, which is polycarbonate plastic frames that are big and actually cover the eyes and not just those tiny frames that some kids prefer, but really ones that provide protection as opposed to simply just for sight. And you know in things like baseball and softball making sure kids are wearing helmets that have eye protection as well.

All of these can go a long way to protecting the eyes from trauma and we know that kids are accident-prone and accidents are going to happen. So just like you wear a helmet when you ride a bike, they should be wearing something over their eyes when they can be at risk.

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