Now that spring is here and the weather has turned nicer, many of us are excited to be able to spend more time on outdoor activities. Gardening, hiking, yard work, bicycling, golf, soccer and tennis are some of the activities to enjoy.

While the aim is fitness and fun, it is important to note that each of these activities pose some danger to the eyes. Eye injuries can range from minor corneal abrasions to severe trauma and loss of the eye or vision. Prevention is key, and the time and effort spent on injury avoidance is well worth it.

Gardening injuries are all too common. Rubbing the eyes with soil contaminated hands or gloves can lead to abrasions, or worse, infections. I have seen many people who have eye injuries from leaning over to prune or weed and have been poked in the eye by unseen stalks or thorns. Insects, especially gnats, are a nuisance and have an uncanny way of finding their way into an eye or under an eyelid. Spraying pesticides or other chemicals on a windy day can result in those substances blowing back into the eyes causing chemical burns. The best protection against these types of injuries is simply to wear some sort of eye protection, spectacles or sunglasses, to keep the eyes protected.

Hiking is a pretty benign event, but one must be careful when walking behind others who may move a twig or branch out of their way, only to have it snap back into your eye. Walking on paths with overlying branches can result in injury if one is not paying attention. Awareness and common sense can usually prevent these types of accidents.

Some of the worst injuries come from yard work or house repairs. Weed wackers and lawnmowers are especially dangerous as objects can be kicked up and hit one in the eye. Unfortunately, bystanders are often victims in these cases so it’s best to be sure others are not around or are properly protected. Hammering, nail guns, pulling up shingles, and other tasks pose serious dangers while doing house repairs. Goggles or safety glasses made of polycarbonate material can resist shattering when hit with an object. Protective eyewear should be comfortable, meet industry standards, and not interfere with peripheral vision. They are easily found at any local garden or hardware store.

It is not unusual for cyclists to present with foreign bodies in their eyes from traveling at high speeds without proper protection. Sunglasses or spectacles are a must for these activities. The same goes for scooters and motorcycles.

When playing sports, blunt force trauma from balls or even rackets, clubs, fingers and elbows is a real concern. I was surprised to learn that basketball is the leading cause of sports related injuries. Of course accidents happen, but prevention goes a long way. Awareness of one’s position in relation to others as well as eye protection can prevent injury and blindness.

For more information on eye safety and injury prevention, check out this link on the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s website.