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Protect your eyes from swooping magpies, experts warn

Spring has sprung in earnest, finally. But along with the blooming flowers and the warmer weather comes the risk of swooping magpies. Eye health experts are warning people to beware and to protect their eyes from these springtime pests. Parents of young children are being warned to be especially ware, as our research has found that spring, dubbed ‘magpie swooping season’, can be a dangerous time for children playing outdoors.

This was a lesson learned the hard way for one Western Australia mother and her young son. Around this time last year, two-year-old Will* was playing in a park near his home in WA , when a magpie attacked him, pecking at his left eye. It happened so quickly that, by the time the family were able to react, the damage had been done. Will was rushed to hospital with significant injuries to his eye.

Will was diagnosed with a corneal laceration and underwent emergency surgery. The injury was extensive and resulted in the onset of traumatic cataract and the loss of iris tissue. Approximately a month later, Will underwent a secondary procedure to implant an intraocular lens and remove corneal sutures. He now has significant corneal astigmatism and wears glasses to correct the refractive error in his injured eye. He has needed ongoing visual rehabilitation including patching , which works by covering the eye with normal vision so that the vision in the problematic eye improves. Will’s treating ophthalmologist describes patching therapy as “extremely challenging” in a child of his age because compliance can be such a problem.

A year later, Will's vision is still poor in his injured eye and any further improvement will depend on the extent of his visual rehabilitation. It is expected that Will will suffer from lazy eye (amblyopia) and he will live with the impact and trauma of the injury all of his life.

Experts in the field of eye research estimate that each year approximately 250,000 children sustain serious eye injuries globally. Raising awareness through public education and by promoting simple protective behaviours and measures, such as using eye protection, can help prevent up to 90 per cent of eye injuries.1

*The patient’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.

‚Äč1 Hoskin, A. (2014) Study to focus on children’s eye injuries. Medicus, May found at: https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=585904964848706;res=IELHEA