Halloween Eye Safety: When Costumes Really Get Scary
Editor’s Note: It’s fun for kids to put on scary costumes for trick-or-treat and Halloween parties, but you don’t want them to end up with something truly frightening – permanent damage to their eyesight. Here are some tips from pediatric ophthalmologist Kristina Tarczy-Hornoch, M.D.,of The Vision Center at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, to help you keep your kids’ eyes safe.
1. Don't Wear Decorative (Non-Prescription) Contact Lenses
The use of decorative or "costume" contact lenses is on the rise, particularly with teenagers, and the trend is causing serious concern among ophthalmologists.
It is against federal law to sell contact lenses in unlicensed outlets such as costume shops, party stores and beauty supply stores, but the law is not always followed. Decorative lenses from unlicensed manufacturers may be made from inferior plastic or may contain toxic dyes. In addition, untrained individuals may not follow proper hygiene in inserting or removing the devices. Eye infections related to improper wearing and handling of contact lenses can rapidly develop into corneal ulcers, which can cause permanent blindness.
Your best bet is to skip decorative lenses altogether in favor of scary makeup or costume items. If your child insists on wearing decorative contact lenses, you should schedule a comprehensive eye exam at an ophthalmologist’s or optometrist’s office. The doctor will be able to determine the correct size, curvature and, if needed, prescription for the lens. The doctor will also provide all-important guidance and instruction on proper handling and cleaning of contact lenses.
Purchase the contact lenses from a licensed eye care professional. This ensures the lens is ordered from a licensed contact lens manufacturer and complies with all FDA regulations for use in the eye.
Use correct contact lens care. Before inserting or removing contacts, wash your hands thoroughly to prevent infection. Never sleep in contacts and do not share them with others.
If blurred vision, redness, discomfort, swelling or discharge occurs, discontinue use of the contact lens immediately and see a physician sooner rather than later, as these may be signs of serious eye issues such as corneal abrasion, conjunctivitis, or corneal ulcer.
2. Only Use Make-Up Approved by the FDA on the Face or Around the Eyes
If your child's costume includes face paint and make-up, use a hypo-allergenic brand and pay close attention to the label. Make sure that any color additives to the face paint are FDA approved (check the Summary of Additives on the FDA website). When applying make-up near or around the eye, stay away from the lid margin, or lash line—the area where you would normally apply eye liner. If you are applying make-up very close to the eye, use only products approved for use in that area such as an eye-liner or eye shadow. Do not use blush or lip-liner to create a "red" effect, as some ingredients may not be approved for use in the eye and bacteria from the mouth can be transmitted to the eye.
To remove make-up, use cold cream instead of soap and water. If make-up gets into the eye, rinse it with cool water, preferably by having the child tilt the head back while water is poured into the eye. If redness or irritation persists, see an eye care professional as soon as possible.
3. Avoid Swords and Other Pointed Objects on Kids' Costumes
Many children will argue that they need a spear, knife, wand or sword to complete their costume. That may be true, but serious eye injuries can occur if one of these pointed objects hits a child’s eye or the eye of a friend.
If your child must carry a sword, find a belt carrier or scabbard where the sword can stay safely nestled while the kids roam the neighborhood. Buy or construct only accessories made of soft or flexible materials.
If your child does get poked in the eye, thoroughly inspect it for any signs of redness, decreased vision or pain. Eye injuries may be more serious than they appear. If your child reports pain or blurred vision in the eye or if the eye is discolored or bloodshot, you should take your child to see a doctor as soon as possible.