Foam parties may cause eye irritation

August 26, 2013
CDC reports the dangers of these popular events

Foam parties are increasingly popular, but the fun may come with a price. Foam parties may cause eye irritation sufficient to impair vision and require medical treatment, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

For example, more than 50 participants in a May 25 foam party at a Naples, Fla., night club sought treatment for eye injuries at local emergency rooms and other health care facilities.

"Foam party attendees could potentially suffer eye irritation if foam particles get into the eye," said Beth Kneib, O.D., director of the AOA Clinical Resources Group. "Proper eye washes should be available during foam parties. However, should eye irritation occur, the participant should quickly seek professional treatment."

The resulting eye irritation can cause discomfort, a burning sensation and tearing. Driving with irritated eyes may be dangerous. "Fortunately, appropriate treatment can be found through optometric practices, as well as at clinics or emergency rooms," Dr. Kneib said.

Minor irritation to major injuries

At foam parties, soapy foam is sprayed onto the dance floor from blowers on the ground or attached to the ceiling. Several feet of foam can accumulate over the course of a party. These parties are increasing popular at nightclubs, school dances, church events, birthday parties, picnics, social club events and college parties.

Participants should be wary, though. After the Naples event, the CDC and Florida Department of Health took notice when disease and injury tracking systems revealed numerous patients with similar eye injuries.

Although some party-goers experienced minor eye irritations, many experienced more serious injuries, the CDC notes. In all cases, injured persons reported getting foam in their face. Almost 90% reported rubbing their eyes after exposure to the foam. Eye irritation (94.6%), severe eye pain (91.1%), pink eye/redness (87.5%), decreased visual acuity (81.3%), and conjunctivitis (76.8%) were the most common injuries. Half of the cases were diagnosed with abrasions of the cornea.

In 11 cases, patients' visual acuity could not be tested in at least one eye during their initial exam because they were unable to open their eye or read the first letter of the chart. The average duration of symptoms was seven days, ranging from less than one hour to more than one month. In seven cases, symptoms had not completely resolved a month after the party. Those seeking care required an average number of 3.2 visits to health care facilities.

"This investigation highlights the range and potential seriousness of eye injuries that can result from exposure to foam," the CDC report notes. 

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