How to Protect Your Eyes During Holi

By Dr Sonali Muralidhar
Continuing the tradition of smearing colour on the faces of friends and throwing coloured water in a playful manner on guests is a hallmark of the Indian Festival Holi. Historically, Holi, the festival of bright and cheerful colours, used to be played with natural dyes made from henna leaves, margosa leaves, marigold flowers, turmeric, kumkum and Gulal made from red sandalwood powder and others.

With changing times, chemical dyes and synthetic colours entered into the market. These may contain dangerous toxins that have harmful effect on the human body. Therefore, one has to be careful while using the colours for playing Holi; most of the modern colours are in fact chemical dyes and can cause skin allergies. Some of the skin problems that could occur are itching, rashes, dryness and irritation. Eyes are extremely vulnerable and need to be protected since sometimes; these harmful colours come in contact with eyes resulting in eye-infection and others.

As Holi is round the corner and it is not just the time to have fun but also need to be careful as every year, there is a spate of eye and skin injuries reported during Holi. There can be potential danger to your eyes when one comes in contact with colours as eyes are very sensitive and vulnerable that can be damaged. Despite awareness, people continue to use synthetic colours which contain harmful ingredients like lead (which can cause eye allergies, conjunctivitis, chemical burns, corneal abrasion or blunt eye injury.)

Holi can lead to a host of problems including
Temporary Blindness: While splashing colours, it can enter eyes and blur the vision for a while. A grey patch can appear on retina which may cause blocked sight. One need to be careful while playing water balloons as it can hit eyes and one can suffer from permanent blindness with serious corneal tear or blunt eye injury.

Scratched cornea: As cornea is the thin, clear layer that covers and protects the iris, harmful colour can enter enters eye which can get trapped under the eyelid. These particles may irritate the corneal surface and cause abrasion.

Conjunctivitis: Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, a thin layer of tissue lining the inner surface of your eye lid. This transparent layer also covers the white part of your eyes and becomes inflamed due to chemical irritants in Holi colours.

Eye allergies: Holi colours can trigger allergic reaction which may result in reddening, swelling and watery eyes.

Inflammation of Iris: While playing Holi, the colours can come in contact with iris and result in serious inflammation. It can be very problematic for those wearing lenses as the problem will be double as chemicals can smear the lens and get trapped between the lens and the eye surface.

Safety Tips for Eyes During Holi
--Protect your eyes by wearing your glasses or sunglasses
--Use natural colours while playing holi
--Apply coconut oil around your eyes to protect your eyes as the skin around the eyes is very sensitive to chemicals in the colours.
--Do not wear contact lenses
--Do not use synthetic colours if possible
--Avoid spraying colours near the eyes
--Do not rub your eyes while playing

Injuries with Colours: If colour has gone into the eyes, then wash the eyes immediately with copious amounts of clean water. If irritation persists, then contact an eye doctor. If the injury is more severe, with the end of the water gun, water balloons and others, then contact emergency eye services.

Dr Sonali Muralidhar is an Ophthalmologist working with People Tree Hospitals.

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