The festival of Holi is a time of grand celebration and merrymaking all across the country. All the streets of urban and rural India are drenched in a rainbow of colors, and young and old celebrate the festival with as much joy and fervor. Sometimes, this revelry can turn sour, especially in cases of accidents which can range from trivial to catastrophic.
The case of color falling into the eye seems innocuous, but it can be a potentially disastrous situation. Due to this, public health advisories are issued just before Holi, advising people to exercise caution during the celebrations. Also, healthcare facilities across the country, including eye hospitals, even gear up to receive the high number of patients who come seeking medical aid.
Why are Holi colors harmful?
Earlier, Holi was played with natural colors, extracted from flowers, which had a soothing effect on the skin. The colors available in the market today, on the other hand, contain toxic chemicals which have not been certified as fit for use on human skin, let alone eyes. Most of these colors, especially the dry colored powder, gulal, contain toxic chemicals like lead oxide, copper sulfate, heavy metals, acids, alkalis, mica, asbestos, talc, silica and powdered glass. Liquid colors are often dissolved in an alkaline base, and this, when instilled in the eye, is more harmful than acids also. Alkali injuries aren’t very painful, but can be potentially very serious. If instilled in the eye, all these chemicals can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and even blindness. Which is why it is recommended that any eye injury should be seen by an eye care professional in case the irritation or redness persists beyond a few hours.
What should I do in case Holi Colors go into the Eye?
You should try to protect your eyes during Holi, in case, if the the colors go into your eye, you should follow the 5 necessary steps:
Step 1: Stay calm
A reaction that is not through can potentially aggravate the situation, so it is essential that the affected person, and those around him or her remain calm and collected. Avoid crowding around the person, and avoid any arguments about attributing blame at this moment. The guilty party can be accosted later. Any chaos will delay the actual sight-saving response, and it is critical that you think clearly and logically in case of an emergency.
Step 2: Remove contact lenses
In case you are wearing contact lenses, you must remove them immediately. Contact lenses tend to absorb the harmful chemicals in color and retain them as in a depot. These chemicals continue to leach out of the lenses causing prolonged and protracted damage to the surface of the eye.
Step 3: Rinse eyes with lots of clean, drinking water.
It is important to try and remove as much of the color from the eye as is possible, immediately. A cursory examination will reveal any cuts inside the eyeball. If there are any cuts noted, do not attempt anything, and rush the patient to a medical facility immediately.
In case the eyeball appears intact, as is in most cases with only color going into the eye, rinse the eyes thoroughly. Cup your palms gently and fill them up with clean water. In the absence of drinking water, tap water may be used. Gently lower your face, and try and open your eyes in the water in your palms. Blink frequently and try and move your eyes around to help rinse off the color. Do not splash water into the eye, since that can aggravate the injury.
Alternatively, the eyes can also be washed under a gentle stream of water from a shower or a tap. The injured person’s face should be so positioned that the injured eye is down and to the side. In case of a severe chemical burn (the eye might blanch and turn chalky white) continue flushing the eyes with water till you reach the emergency room. Try and keep the eyes open during the eyewash for maximal benefit.
Do not try to remove any particulate matter using a handkerchief or tissue; it will only make things worse. Wash your hands thoroughly to make sure no chemical is still on them.
In case there is any associated bleeding or laceration, make sure to clean that area with an antiseptic agent like Savlon or Dettol. Use a firm compress to stem the bleeding, if any. Any lodged foreign bodies from within the eye should not be removed without medical assistance.
Step 4: Use lubricating eye drops
If any lubricating eye drops are handy, feel free to irrigate the eyes with the tear supplements. This will help calm any irritation, and will also wash off some of the residual colors inside the eye. In an emergency, you may also use an antibiotic eye drop as a substitute. If so allowed by the emergency technicians you contact, you can also use the contact lens saline rinses to clean the eyes at this point.
Step 5: Seek medical help:
In case of persistent redness, watering, discharge, itching or discomfort, please seek the opinion of an eye care professional. In case of any visual blur, foreign body in the eye, laceration of the eye, or bleeding from the eye or surrounding areas, you must try to reach the eye hospital as soon as possible.
Sometimes, one tends to avoid seeing the doctor thinking the problem in the eyes will subside if we “sleep over it”. In case of chemicals in the eye, this can prove disastrous and have long-term consequences. Any blob of color lodged under the eyelids, if not removed in time, can continue to leach color and chemicals into the eye, causing recurrent damage.
The injuries can range from mild irritation, corneal abrasions or scratches to deep chemical burns. Often, the symptoms of redness, pain, and watering are not commensurate with the severity of the chemical injury. It is therefore recommended that you seek the help of your eye doctor after irrigating your eyes with clean water for about ten to fifteen minutes.
We hope you will always enjoy the festival of colors safely, and that the colors will continue to brighten your lives in the years to come.