Halloween should be all about tricks, treats, delightful costumes, and making excuses to overindulge in sweets. But some of today’s more inventive and exciting costumes include accessories that can irritate eyes, invite infection and, in some cases, cause permanent blindness.
No, we’re not kidding. The CDC, American Academy of Ophthalmology, and doctors of Lake Eye Associates advise against including the following in your Halloween dress-up plans:
OTC Costume Contact Lenses
Plenty of online and storefront retailers offer non-prescription contact lenses to make eyes glow in the dark, look reptilian or cat-like, glow fiery red, or display captivating patterns – making them exceedingly popular among teens and adults looking to strike an impression. Sadly, the large unregulated cache of these cosplay fashion accessories can turn a costume from a scene-stealer to a sight-killer. These illegal, unsterile contact lenses may contain eye irritants like metal, chlorine and other dangerous chemicals. Easily available fashion lenses can introduce bacteria into the eye, and their uneven texture can abrade the cornea. These conditions create a fertile breeding ground for everything from irritation and infection to corneal scarring, which can permanently reduce vision and even result in total blindness. That’s a heavy price to pay for one night of thrills.
Non-prescription lenses can cause:
- Eye infections (discomfort, redness, swelling, discharge, itching, pain)
- Allergic reactions
- Cuts/scratches to the cornea
- Keratitis (corneal inflammation)
- Corneal ulcers
- Irreversible vision damage
Even though these unregulated decorative lenses are illegal for sale in the US, it is easy to find them online, at flea markets, costume, discount and smoke shops, salons, gas stations and Halloween pop-ups. Don’t assume because they’re for sale that they are safe or legal. And while you might never consider inserting some off-the-shelf item into your eye, it’s worth asking your teenage and adult children if their costumes include this increasingly-popular fashion accessory.
If you or a loved one is set on novelty contact lenses to dazzle and impress, make sure they are FDA-approved prescription lenses, which you can purchase in many optical centers with a current prescription. If you don’t have a contact lens prescription, see your eye doctor or local optical center. Even if your vision is perfect, novelty contact lenses should be purchased only from retailers requiring a lens prescription. Quality, sterile, fitted lenses may cost a bit more money, but they won’t cost you your vision. That’s an important savings.
- Halloween Makeup
The right make-up can make or break a Halloween costume, but be mindful that not all make-up ingredients are good for eyes. Fragrances (even natural ones), pigments/colorants, metallics and preservatives (like parabens and benzalkonium chloride), can irritate eyes and eyelids. It is wise to patch-test make-up on the inside of your wrist the day before you plan to assemble your costume to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction to any of its ingredients. And avoid using any make-up inside your lash line. Inner-lid lash-lining might create a cool look, but it can block or inflame moisture glands and cause eye dryness and irritation. And don’t use glitter-based make-up, which contains tiny particles that can migrate into the eye and result in infections, corneal scratches and scarring. And never use decorative glitter on your face or in your hair – the tiny metal fragments are an eye’s worst nightmare.
- Halloween Accessories
If you’re helping a child assemble a costume, make sure any included mask, hood, wig or accessory doesn’t block their vision. An eye patch can limit depth perception, prompting missteps off stairs and curbs. (Remember this caution for your own costume, too – especially if you plan to go out partying.)
If your child’s costume contains a “weapon,” such as a sword, knife, saber, etc., consider their age and level of maturity. Kids will be kids, after all, and even in play some accessories can cause injury, particularly to eyes. Some costume accessories look great in photos but aren’t practical for trick-or-treating, and can be left at home.
- Addressing Eye Injuries
Should you suffer an eye injury, don’t wait – call your eye doctor immediately or, if needed, head straight to the ER. If you develop symptoms of eye irritation or infection, or experience vision distortion or changes, call the helpful staff of Lake Eye Associates (a US Eye company) for an appointment. Quick treatment of eye injury and infection can help ensure problems don’t become worse and result in vision damage. We are here to provide effective, soothing relief and protect your vision for a lifetime.