-Dr. Mahipal S Sachdev, Chairman & Founder, Centre for Sight group of Eye Hospitals
With the festival of colors- Holi approaching, the whole of India especially the northern regions is going to be covered in colour in the coming days. While this time of year is enjoyed by people of every age group with gatherings and get-togethers of friends and family, Holi with itself can also bring agony to the general public’s eyes, skin, hair, and respiratory tracts.
The risk of infection in the body increases gradually in this period as the synthetic colors used are composed of chemicals and possess a great threat to people’s eyes. These Colors contain chemicals like Mercury Sulphite, Lead Oxide, and Copper Sulphate that are harmful to the eyes. Exposure to these chemicals can result in people suffering from eye allergies, temporary blindness, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Some other health hazards include skin allergies, dermatitis, drying and chapping of the skin, skin cancer, rhinitis, asthma, and pneumonia.
These synthetic colors can get easily mixed with water and enter the eye causing mild redness and irritation. It is advised for patients that if this irritation and redness do not go away in a day or two, they should refer to an ophthalmologist. The particles present inside color powders (shining mica particles in gulal) can also cause damage to the cornea. The patient can experience pain and watering from the eye and if not treated in time, this can cause an ulcer/ infection in the eye. The corneal abrasion is an emergency and one should consult the doctor immediately.
The use of these synthetic colors can also lead to partial vision loss. A gray patch appears on the retina and blocks sight. It is a serious medical complication and therefore, should not be ignored. Delayed treatment can lead to complete loss of sight. Not only holi colors but also sprays or mace can result in temporary blindness.
There is a gradual increase in the number of patients visiting hospitals Post-Holi due to skin and eye problems. The eyes are the most sensitive part of the body and any chemical that goes inside can cause mild allergy to severe chemical burns in the eye.
The balloons used by children during Holi are also dangerous as they can cause blunt eye injury. There can be bleeding within the eye, lens subluxation, macular edema, or retinal detachment. These can lead to loss of vision or loss of the eye. These are all eye emergencies that require immediate specialist consultation.
Tips you must follow to prevent damage to the eyes:-
· Cover the eyes while playing Holi – Always cover your eyes whenever there is a chance of color coming in contact with them. Sunglasses are useful for this.
· Keep your eyes close – Try to dissuade people from applying color all over your face with their hands. If you fail to do so, be especially careful in keeping your eyes and lips tightly shut. Always request the person not to smear the colors near the eyes.
· Keep the windows closed when traveling by car – The menace of water balloons can be tackled in this way. Water balloons can be most damaging for your eyes as they can rupture the eyeball or even lead to retinal detachment.
· Remove contact lenses if you feel irritation – If the eye is exposed to aniline dyes during Holi, it causes great irritation to the eye. The exposure to the dye increases for those who wear contact lenses. They should immediately discard the contact lens.
Home-made colors are always better than synthetic colors. Everybody is aware of it and can make these at home. “Haldi” mixed with flour gives yellow color, while petals of flowers of “Tesu/Palash” give you saffron color. The “Beetroot” pieces soaked in water can give magenta color. Even henna powder, gulmohar flowers, or hibiscus flowers can be used to make colors. These homemade colors are safe for the skin and eyes.
Taking this opportunity, I would request everyone to enjoy their festivities responsibly, in terms of maintaining the social distancing norms, being watchful with the synthetic colors, and your health.