Kids Health Matters: Preventing eye injuries

WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- Our eyes are essential for almost everything we do, so it's never too early to take steps to prevent injuries and damage.

Jonah Hudson has always loved baseball, especially being a catcher.

"It's just fun, because you command everything basically," says Jonah with a smile.

But Jonah's off the diamond this summer, due to an eye injury just 2 weeks into the season.

It happened when he was trying to bunt.

"I think I lunged forward a little bit too much," recalls Jonah. "I tried to back off, but didn't back off enough."

"And instead of hitting the ground it reflected off the bat and hit him in the eye," says his mother, Lynn Hudson.

"All I felt was like my eye backwards, in the back of my head," adds Jonah.

In a blink, he'd suffered a concussion, a broken bone around his right eye, and retina damage.

"As a parent, you don't ever think this is going to happen at a baseball game," says Lynn.

It put him in Nemours DuPont Hospital for Children for a night, to monitor the traumatic brain injury and the injured eye.

"I couldn't even open it," says Jonah.

When he finally could open his right eye, he couldn't see anything.

"Just a black circle," says Lynn.

And even now, the vision in Jonah's right eye is blurry.

"He has swelling in the retina. That's actually red blood underneath the retina," says Nemours duPont ophthalmologist Dr. Sharon Lehman.

Dr. Lehman says sports are the biggest cause of eye injuries in kids: baseball for younger children, basketball for those over the age of 11.

But most needn't happen.

"It's estimated that 90% of eye injuries from sports are preventable," says Dr. Lehman.

ophthalmologist Dr. Lehman says eye protection, such as sports safety glasses, are a must for any child playing a contact sport, or one with a ball or projectile.

Although some major leaguers like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout now wear helmets with flaps that keep the ball from reaching the eye, they aren't widely used yet in kids' baseball.

For every child, athlete or not, Dr. Lehman says sunglasses are also a must, to prevent ultraviolet damage that can lead to cataracts or macular degeneration in later life.

She says pets are another common cause of eye injuries, particularly in younger children.

"Children and dogs, neither one knows better, and children unknowingly may make an either a facial expression or a movement that the dog considers aggressive," says Dr. Lehman.

Or the dog may be overly friendly, and overwhelm a child.

"We often see eyelid lacerations from dog injuries," says Dr. Lehman, noting those injuries also often involve tear ducts.

If they're not repaired correctly, a child can have problems with tearing for the rest of his or her life.

Laundry pods also pose a danger to young children.

"They either try and bite into it, or squeeze it, and then the caustic substance can be squirted into the eye," causing a chemical injury, she says.

Chemical injuries can cause lifelong problems with the eye.

Fortunately, Jonah's eye is healing - slowly, and there's no guarantee he'll recover all his vision.

His mother urges every parent not to wait till they're in her shoes.

"Even if your son or daughter does not want to wear the eye protection, it's a necessity," says Lynn Hudson.
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