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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 2, 2003

UI Ophthalmologist Stresses Safety During The Holiday Season

In the much-loved movie "A Christmas Story," Ralphie sets out to convince the world that a Red Ryder BB gun is the perfect gift.

"You'll shoot your eye out!" was the response he got from his parents, teacher and even Santa Claus. It's one of the more hilarious and memorable quotes from this Christmas classic because we've all heard it repeatedly during our childhood. Unfortunately, it comes true for too many people.

It's hard to resist giving into your child's overwhelming desire for his or her most wished-for gift, especially during the holiday season, but sometimes you have to just that for their safety.

Toys -- including some seemingly innocent ones -- and sporting equipment are responsible for thousands of eye injuries to children every year. That's why eye health specialists all over the nation are celebrating Safe Toys and Celebrations Month and urging Americans to purchase safe toys and gifts this year.

"Every year eye specialists see firsthand the devastating damage toys can inflict," said Karen Gehrs, M.D., associate professor (clinical) ophthalmology and visual sciences in the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and a specialist at UI Hospitals and Clinics. "By getting the word out, we hope to save children from needless suffering."

When shopping for toys, check labels to make sure they are age- and maturity-level appropriate. Pass on games or toys with sharp or protruding parts or projectiles. And consider carefully before giving darts, pellet guns or other firearms. These items may not be appropriate for some children.

If you are giving sporting equipment that has the potential to injure eyes, be sure to include appropriate protective eyewear and require its use. Approximately 42,000 sports-related eye injuries occur every year. But, 90 percent of these injuries could have been avoided with the right protective eyewear.

Lastly, before you open a bottle of your favorite bubbly to toast the holidays, learn how to do it safely. Make sure corks are pointed away from you and others, and make sure your champagne is chilled to at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit before opening. Every year, warm bottles of champagne, coupled with bad technique, are responsible for causing serious, blinding injuries.

By following a few simple safety tips, you can make sure your holidays are festive and injury-free.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at www.uihealthcare.com.

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Planning, Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room 8798 JPP, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945, thomas-moore@uiowa.edu