By Dr. Tushar Grover
Holi, the beautiful festival of colours is barely days away. The spectacular celebrations marked by bright coloured powders, gulal and abir and in some cases ‘clean mud’ are not only worthy of a watch but packs in enough joy and excitement for a day. And amid all the frenzied euphoria, the high drama and the hustle and bustle involving extraordinarily high energy levels during the celebrations, the impulse to ‘lose oneself’ is simply irresistible. And so the tendency to get wild and uninhibited for most people is not out of the ordinary.
But the unrestrained nature of the celebrations also requires people to take necessary precautions particularly with respect to their eyes.
Holi is a great festival to celebrate and people must enjoy themselves. However, at the same time, they must take due precautions with respect to their body parts such as skin and eyes. Especially eyes because they happen to be one of the most sensitive organs that we have and even the slightest damage can spell a lifetime of misery and handicap for a person. Yet, people tend to be more careful with their mouths and even noses while blissfully hoping that the playing materials would not get into their eyes. As such, in order to protect their eyes, people should first know and be informed that a bulk of material and colours that they are using today is not at all safe for their eyes. Much of what goes around today and passes off as colours are actually a range of synthetic colours. And these are essentially chemicals and industrial dyes containing heavy metals, acids, pieces of glass and other similar harmful material all of which can pose enormous risks to our eyes.
So, what should a ‘Holi-lover’ do in order to avoid any damage to his eyes and at the same time enjoy the Holi celebrations to the fullest?
First of all, people should opt for natural and herbal colours and make a thorough assessment of whatever they are going to play with given the widespread sale and usage of synthetic colours and material some of which could be extremely toxic to any parts of the body including the eyes. Second, before venturing out to play Holi, a person must apply a coating of coconut oil or cold cream on facial skin. They would effectively form some sort of a fence between the colours and the eyes preventing the former from entering into the latter. However, remember not to apply them directly into the eyes but only over closed eyes. Third, those wearing lenses must remove them or wear prescription glasses before going out to play. If lenses are indispensable, they should use daily disposable ones and discard them soon after playing Holi. And while playing they have to be utmost careful against any speck of colour or material getting into the eyes. And if something does go into the eyes, they should immediately throw away the lens and wash their eyes with clean cold water without rubbing their eyes. Fourth, post-celebrations, after washing eyes with cool filtered water, people could use prescription lubricating eye drops if they feel any dryness or irritation. And if one experiences redness, reduced vision, watering or pain, one should consult an eye specialist immediately. Fifth, they could also consider a range of other options to soothe their eyes such as cold compresses with an ice pack, or cucumber slices or natural aloe vera. But even these need to be applied on closed eyes and not directly into the eyes. And sixth, for a more dried out skin after Holi, one could use coconut oil or petroleum jelly, but again only around the eyelid skin and not directly. At the sign of any redness or swelling, one should immediately go to an ophthalmologist and not resort to self-medication.
The writer of article is Dr. Tushar Grover, Medical Director, Vision Eye Centre, New Delhi.