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Don’t let the festival of lights turn you blind

CARELESSNESS and lack of supervision can turn the festival of lights into darkness for some.

Every year, a stream of patients visits the ophthalmologist with various stages of eye injuries caused by crackers. And when the season peaks, their number rises.  Unfortunately, a majority of those injured are innocent passersby. These victims would have been either watching someone else light a cracker, or completely unaware of a rocket cruising towards them.

Eye hospitals in the City are often on high alert during Deepavali. Dr Bhujang Shetty of Narayana Nethralaya says the three units of the hospital would be open throughout the night, so that people get early care and treatment. “We provide free consultation and primary, outpatient treatment free of cost to encourage people to seek treatment as early as possible,” he says.

While two to four cases on an average are rather serious, with patients losing their eye sight, 10 per cent are moderate injuries. Almost half of the injured are bystanders, whose injuries fall under moderate to severe category.

Teenagers and children get injured either while watching the firecrackers being burst or while performing some prank. For instance, Dr Sri Ganesh from Nethradhama recalls how a six-year-old boy came to the hospital on Deepavali day with a severe eye injury. The boy was watching his older brother burst a cracker, which he had lit and kept under an empty tin. When the cracker burst, the tin flew cutting the young boy’s eye lid and rupturing the eye globe and retinal detachment. “In spite of undergoing multiple surgeries, the boy does not have complete vision,” Dr Ganesh said.

About 10 per cent of the total number of cases the hospital treated for firecracker injuries were severe, threatening sight.

As Dr Shivaprasad Reddy, in-charge director and medical superintendent, Minto Hospital, put it, the hospital has seen a steady increase in the number of eye injury cases in the last five to six years. One reason for this could be greater awareness and better reporting of incidents, Dr Reddy felt. Apart from this, 10-20 per cent of eye injury patients are referrals from smaller or private hospitals.

Flowerpots, rockets and bombs are more dangerous than other firecrackers. Although Dr Shetty and Dr Reddy were of the opinion that firecrackers should not be burst at all, they advise compulsory adult supervision when children burst crackers. “Crackers should also be burst in an open field rather than congested, residential areas, where it can cause a lot of injuries,” Dr Reddy said.

Wearing protective eye wear such as goggles or plastic glasses and using long incense sticks while lighting crackers were other precautions that people could take, says Dr Ganesh. If a person feels irritation in the eyes due to chemical fumes or other causes, they should immediately wash their eyes and consult a doctor, said Dr Shetty.

Some noisy facts
* According to KSPCB readings, Bellary had the highest level of noise pollution in the state at 103 decibels in 2010 Deepavali.
* In Bangalore, AECS Layout with mainly IT crowd had the highest noise pollution level at 83 decibels
* The overall noise level during Deepavali in 2010 decreased by 12 per cent at three locations (Vijayanagar Club, Cubbonpet and Indiranagar)
* Air pollution increased by 76 per cent during Deepavali in 2009 compared to normal days

(Published in Deccan Herald)

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