Traveling to snowy destinations has long been a favorite pastime of families, especially as these destinations become more child-friendly. If you are considering a trip to a snow covered area, and if your plans will include playing in snow outdoors, you may want to become familiar with the pediatric risks your child could experience.
While most parents are concerned about frostbite and complications associated with hypothermia in their children, there is a greater risk that can occur when children play in the outdoors while on a vacation in a snow covered destination. Burns to the eyes are often not an injury that we associated with snow and vacation but this is a real health risk for children and must be addressed prior to your planned vacation.
Known as “flash burns”, this type of burn can affect any part of the body but is especially common among children. When in the outdoors in a snow covered area, the flash burn can occur to your child’s eyes where there is limited eye protection used and your child stares into the glare of the snow too long. While most flash burns to the eyes can heal in a few days, it can certainly ruin a vacation and even become a long term complication in rare cases.
The exposure to bright UV light is the primary cause of flash burn in your child’s eyes and you will know when your child has experienced this type of eye burn as the eyes will be bloodshot, watery, and you may even find that your child is complaining of burning and difficulty seeing. In some cases, a child may also complain that the eyes feel dirty and this leaves parents confused as to what the health complication may be.
Once you’ve confirmed the condition is a flash burn, or eye burn, then you will want to take some necessary steps to help in healing the eyes and to reduce your child’s pain. Using an over-the-counter, sterile eye lubricant may help but it will also be important that your child wear sunglasses at all times to reduce any further exposure to light, including indoor light. After a few days, if the pain and symptoms have not dissipated, then consultation with a pediatric ophthalmologist may be necessary.
Flash burns to the eyes are one of the most common types of eye injuries in children and can be prevented if parents are familiar with the risk. If you are taking your children on vacation this year, and if you will be outdoors in bright sunlight where snow may further enhance the UV rays, then be sure that your child has sunglasses to wear. With proper eye protection, flash burns to the eyes can be prevented and, when sustained, are typically minor and can be treated at home.
Sources: A Child’s Eyes: A Guide to Pediatric Primary Care, by John Simon, MD