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From Explosions to Pepper Spray:
Protecting Your Eyes in an Emergency

Clear Vision Can Save a Life

It is a fact: Military personnel, law enforcement, fire-fighters, homeland security and emergency rescue workers are not taught enough about protecting their own vision during an emergency. The need is enormous because these well-trained and brave individuals are often faced with situations where, "Clear Vision Can Save a LifeTM" - Not only their own but the lives of those around them.

The following educational presentation was developed through ongoing research by Bio-Logic Aqua Technologies Biomedical Research, in consultation with Ophthalmologists, police, fire-fighters, EMT's and the US military (with special mention to the Portland Tribute to Honor Group). It includes information never before presented. The goal is not only to provide new research and education for emergency personnel, but useful information for anyone in a situation where vision threats might reduce their effectiveness.

Vision Threats

During a disaster or emergency, threats to vision may come from multiple sources: Smoke, chemical and explosive fumes, chemical weapons, tear gas, pepper spray, perspiration, dust, wind, heat, solar radiation, cold, stress, fatigue, foreign particles, etc. Vision threats may be also originate from the more mundane: Building and window insulation, cleaning fluids, wet paint, auto exhaust, slicing onions. A plastic laundry basket left too close to the fireplace could create an emergency just as dangerous to life and vision as an oilfield explosion.

When threat becomes reality, the resultant vision challenges can range from eyestrain, to burning or itching eyes, to excessive tearing, to blurred vision. These challenges may be mild (sub-acute), they may be temporarily debilitating or they may be blinding. Without, (1) adequate precautionary measures and (2) proper first aid, the result could be permanent visual impairment or loss of life.

How Vision Threats Affect Your Eyes

Bio-Logic Aqua Technologies Biomedical Research is studying the reasons for the discomfort and/or impairment caused by emergency visual challenges. Discomfort and/or impairment occurs when either:

  1. Airborne substances overwhelm and alter the microscopically thin aqueous (water) layer of the eye's protective tear film. The results may be excessive tearing, blurred vision and/or an inability to keep eyes opened, as reflexive tearing attempts to wash out the irritant and sensitive corneal nerves send out a pain reaction.
  2. Airborne substances penetrate the aqueous layer in lesser amounts, resulting in an acceleration of moisture evaporation from the tear film and causing an over-concentration of irritating electrolyte (salt) and proteins. Dry, irritated eyes are the most common sub-acute visual result of exposure to environmental hazards.

First aid remedies for emergency visual challenges:

  1. Eyes that are already dry and irritated are more susceptible. Precautionary supplementation of the aqueous layer's moisture level, from time to time, could increase resistance to discomfort or impairment.
  2. For milder or sub-acute irritation, dilute the irritant by increasing the aqueous layer's moisture volume.
  3. In severe cases, wash out the irritant with a sterile eye wash.

Nature's Tears EyeMist

Most recommendations herein involve "Nature's Tears EyeMist," developed by Bio-Logic Aqua Technologies Biomedical Research. Nature's Tears EyeMist is particularly suited for quick, effective application to supplement aqueous layer moisture under emergency conditions. It could also act as a quickly-applied eyewash that remains sterile even under unsanitary conditions. It is the only sterile eyecare product applied as a mist.

Nature's Tears EyeMist and eyedrops

The standard treatment for eyes that have become extremely dry and/or irritated has been formulated eyedrops. While research has discovered that eyedrops are beneficial in helping trap and seal tear film moisture, they have some drawbacks as an emergency application:

  1. Eyedrops are most effective as a sealer if the tear film moisture content is at an optimal level prior to their application, which is often not the case after exposure to vision threats.
  2. To apply eyedrops, you must stop what you are doing, hold your eyelid opened with your fingers, steady your hand, and apply the drops with a dropper. If your fingers are dirty, or if you accidentally nick your eye with the dropper, infection could result.
  3. Because an eyedrop may contain far more volume than is required, it could flood the eye, blurring vision for the next few seconds and washing away beneficial lipids, proteins and infection-fighting antibodies.
  4. The chemicals and preservatives in eyedrops could result in allergic reaction that increases discomfort and impairment.
  5. Other remedies, such as warm compresses (to stimulate tear production), or sterile eyewashes, also require that you stop what you are doing.

Research is showing that eyedrops are most effective when Nature's Tears EyeMist, which is all-natural, preservative-free and proven to increase tear film moisture content, is applied immediately prior to the eyedrops. Nature's Tears EyeMist has no dosage limit and is also effective between eyedrop applications or when eyedrops are not convenient.

Emergency recommendations

The following recommendations suggest procedures to quickly and temporarily alleviate vision challenges so that emergency personnel may continue their work with minimal distraction or risk of visual impairment. None of the recommendations should be construed as "treatment." Recommendations fall into three categories:

  1. Precaution: Step taken to help improve resistance to a visually threatening situation.
  2. Palliative: A measure taken to temporarily reduce the severity of discomfort or injury.
  3. First aid: Temporary, emergency care given until medical treatment is received.

Fumes, smoke, tear gas, pepper spray, airborne chemicals: Airborne chemicals create discomfort by altering the pH balance (acidity/alkalinity) and osmolarity (moisture attracting and retaining ability), of the tear film. An occasional one-second precautionary misting with Nature's Tears EyeMist, in a sweep across the face whenever discomfort is felt, can increase resistance to airborne irritants by maintaining the tear film's correct moisture content, osmolarity and pH balance. Should the irritants build up to where discomfort becomes extreme, irrigate with Nature's Tears EyeMist by spraying directly into eyes from a distance of four inches, followed by gentle blotting with a handkerchief or tissue. Protective eyewear or headgear also helps protect eyes from airborne irritants.

Chemical or thermal burns - to eyes, eyelids or skin: Irrigate (spray from four inches away), with Nature's Tears EyeMist to dilute and wash away chemicals and dirt. Do not blot burned area unless there is an astringent chemical, such as pepper spray or tear gas, which could continue to burn unless removed. Bandage and seek immediate medical assistance. Keep burned areas moist by misting from time to time.

Contact lenses: Contact lenses are extremely drying to the eyes because they float on the tear film and utilize the moisture to remain soft and pliable. Thus, most contact lens wearers have a problem with optical dryness even under favorable conditions. While contact lenses are more convenient in emergency and combat situations than eyeglasses, and offer better peripheral vision, the incidence of dry, irritated eyes is greatly increased and it takes much less irritant to create discomfort. An occasional one-second application of Nature's Tears EyeMist could instantly alleviate discomfort from contact lens dryness. Lenses are better tolerated and may be worn longer.

Eyestrain, stress, fatigue, allergies: Stress, fatigue, allergies, perspiration, excessive physical activity and many other conditions can cause body, eyes and skin to lose moisture. The eyes are affected first, becoming tired, strained and uncomfortable. Then the mouth becomes dry, you start urinating frequently, the skin begins to itch, and headache and fatigue set in. The obvious solution is to drink plenty of water (warm water is absorbed faster and takes longer to enter the bladder). Applications of Nature's Tears EyeMist whenever visual discomfort is felt, could offer a quick and effective solution.

Low humidity, heat, cold, wind: Low humidity and wind increase moisture evaporation from the body's external surfaces (skin, optical tear film, breathing passages), causing skin chapping, eye discomfort and other symptoms. Low humidity (air moisture content) can be a vision threat in either warm or cold weather. Colder air cannot hold as much moisture as warmer air but moisture evaporates faster in warmer air. Air with high humidity could also dry out external body surfaces if the humidity is contaminated with dehydrating pollutants. The quickest and most effective solution is to apply Nature's Tears EyeMist whenever discomfort is felt.

Forced air heating and cooling: Forced air heating and cooling, building and window insulation, paint and cleaning chemicals and fluorescent lighting, present in many offices, rob the air of humidity and increase evaporation of moisture from skin and eyes. They also spread airborne bacteria, which reproduce more rapidly on dehydrated skin and eyes. The tear film contains natural antibodies that counteract bacterial invasion. A one-second burst of Nature's Tears EyeMist, several times a day and whenever discomfort is felt, will keep moisture in both the tear film and facial skin at optimal levels.

Airplane travel: Airplane cabins are notorious for low humidity (as low as 3%). That's because planes either re-circulate air, which dries it out, or scoop it in from the outside, where the temperatures can be 30 to 70 degrees below zero (air at those temperatures contains virtually no oxygen or moisture). Add to that a planeload of passengers, all competing for same meager supply of air moisture and all spreading bacteria (low humidity causes bacteria-laden skin particles, or flora, to flake off at an increased rate). Whether you're piloting or riding as a passenger, Nature's Tears EyeMist can greatly increase the comfort level and reduce many "jet lag" symptoms, including headache and fatigue from dry, irritated eyes.

Dust, sand, foreign particles: Nature's Tears EyeMist makes an excellent eyewash (irrigant) that remains sterile even under unsanitary conditions. Hold the mist canister four inches from the eye, spread the eyelids with your fingers if need be, and spray until the particles are washed out. If there is any possibility that a particle has caused injury, bandage the eye until a doctor can look at it. Do not try to wash out large particles that have penetrated the corneal membrane.

Perspiration, sunburn, melanoma: Solar exposure is dehydrating to both skin and eyes. Solar exposure also increases perspiration into the eyes, which increases electrolyte concentration in the tear film, causing burning and irritation. Drink plenty of water during extended solar exposure and when wearing protective gear that makes you perspire. Water with added electrolyte (salt) is best (or a Gatorade type drink). The amount of water needed increases with the temperature and activity level, but eight glasses per day is considered minimal. Wear sunscreen during solar exposure to prevent both sunburn and melanoma. Frequent application of Nature's Tears EyeMist helps dilute the tear film, decreasing discomfort from perspiration into the eyes. It also helps restores tear film moisture lost to dehydration, and helps restore facial skin moisture to better resist sunburn. The mist is extremely soothing to sunburn.

Other vision threats: Nature's Tears EyeMist should be carried during any high-stress, emergency, combat, desert or arctic operation. In addition to the specific threats described above, it could be beneficial for individuals with severe dry eye, allergies, Sjogren's syndrome, scleroderma, lupus, diabetes, recent Lasik eye surgery, and Parkinson's (because of the ease of application).

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