Saving your sight during Crop Over Season – J’Ouvert

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Crop Over Season in Barbados. During this time of year the island is rocked by a series of warm-up parties, all leading up to the final Crop Over Festival on the first Monday of August.

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J’Ouvert 2014

But… with great parties comes great ocular responsibility.

J’Ouvert is held on the Friday before Crop Over, it involves a mass of people parading through the streets and smothering each other in paint, mud and coloured powder. It’s the most fun and high-octane way on the planet to get absolutely filthy. I of course participate every year.

Barbados isn’t the only place that loves to get covered in colour. Holi, a Hindu religious festival, is also celebrated by participants getting covered by coloured powder and solutions. Music festivals and marathons have also recently adopted the idea of frolicking in coloured powder with events like the Colour Festival (which I’ve also attended) and the Colour Run.

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Powder Paint from the Colour Festival 2014

However, a dollop of paint, a splash of mud or a grain of powder getting in the eye can easily ruin someone’s party, so it’s important that revellers know how to avoid such an uncomfortable situation, no matter where you’re getting colourful!

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My people need me!

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Here are a Graduate Optometrist’s tips for keeping your eyes safe during the fete:

1. Bring Eyedrops or Saline Solution:

I really can’t emphasize this enough. I bring a bottle every year and each time I find a poor reveller on the side of the road trying to blink some paint or mud out of their eyes. Getting any of these trapped in the eye can cause extreme discomfort that could possibly last all night and also make the eye appear very red (and no one wants that for pictures!). It’s also particularly difficult to get it out of your eyes with dirty hands.

A couple drops from a small bottle of rewetting/comfort eye drops could help flush out the grime and lubricate the eye, making you much more comfortable for the rest of the night. The bottles are tiny and easy to carry and can be bought over the counter at any optometrists’ clinic or pharmacy. You can ask your local clinician what they recommend. If you wear contact lenses, saline is ideal but alternatively you can find a compatible form of drops.

2. Wear Fake Glasses or Shades:

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Yep, I said it. It’s never been easier to get a pair of fake glasses with plastic lenses over the counter from your favourite costume or accessory shop, especially with hipster glasses being all the rage these days. There’s nothing remotely medical about this strategy, but wearing a pair of these bad-boys isn’t only socially acceptable, but acts as a pretty good barrier when your drunk friend decides to surprise you by throwing a bucket of paint in your face. Goggles are another option if you feel like looking extra wacky and are actually more affective since they seal off the entire area surrounding the eye.

3. Daily Contact Lenses:

If you need to wear glasses or contact lenses for all activities, parties like this can be a bit of a challenge. But it’s important to know that a paint-slinging, mud-pouring, powder-throwing party like this can put the surface of your eye at a very real risk, especially if you wear lenses. So what are you supposed to do? Miss the fete? Of course not!

If you’re a contact lens wearer who uses monthly or bi-weekly contact lenses, you might want to consider investing in some daily wear contact lenses for this occasion. The reason being that you might not always feel or see the particles that are getting stuck to the surface of your lenses, and when you come home exhausted and covered in mud, your ability to clean and disinfect your lenses might be somewhat….”impaired”. After a night like that, no one wants to be wearing those contact lenses for a whole month, and repetitively exposing your eyes to a dirty contact lens could have some detrimental affects.

With daily contact lenses, it’s as simple as taking them out and tossing them in the bin after a full night of partying. That way, you can spend the rest of your weekend feting with a clean pair of lenses and a healthy pair of eyes. But whatever you do…. and no matter how tired you are when you get home…for the love of fishcakes don’t sleep in your contact lenses!

4. Wear prescription glasses:

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Any environment that involves airborne particles can be somewhat unnerving for a contact lens wearer, because we all know what it feels like to get one of those specks trapped under a contact lens. If you want to remove the risk altogether there’s nothing stopping you from wearing a pair of your own glasses, but understand there is a likelihood they will get scratched, broken and maybe even lost. If you have an old pair, or a back-up pair, this is when to use them. That way, you can see all of the colours in their splendour and still have a clean, stylish pair of spex to wear to that board meeting next week.

When to see your Optometrist:

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After the party if you find yourself experiencing moderate to severe pain, reduced vision, abnormal discharge, extreme sensitivity to light, severe inflammation of the eyelids or severe redness, be sure to book an appointment with your optometrist. Early detection is the best way to reduce the effects of an infection.

Have a safe and happy J’Ouvert Bim! 🙂

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