Published On : Wed, Mar 23rd, 2016

Have a safe Holi says Ophthalmology Deptt of GMCH

: Holi aka festival of colours is a spring festival in India.  The first day is known as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi while the second day is known as Rangwali Holi or Dhulivandan.

Right from the morning of Dhulivandan, it is a-free-for-all carnival of colours, where participants play, chase and colour each other with dry powder called Gullal and coloured water.

While the kids carry water guns and coloured water-filled balloons for their water fight. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The frolic and fight with colours occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings.


In Nagpur, many groups carry drums popularly called as Sandal go from place to place, sing and dance.


However, with the changing times, the synthetic colours and harmful paints have hit the market in place of the traditional colours extracted from plants and flowers. Damages to skin, eyes etc have been observed year.

With sheer concern for the citizens of Nagpur, Professor and Head of the Department, Department of Ophthalmology, GMC, Nagpur Dr. A. H. Madan has laid out a series of points to ponder.

  • Every year many cases are recorded due to careless use of synthetic colours and balloons.
  • 14% of the total eye injuries in the world and India are caused due to chemicals or chemical products.
  • Of these, around 16.5% of ocular chemical injuries are caused during Holi-3rd after occupational causes and Diwali.
  • In GMC Nagpur, last year 10-15 patients attended casualty due to eye injuries during Holi of which 2 were seriously injured and lost eyesight permanently and 3-4 required admission and further follow up.
  • Synthetic colours contain harmful chemicals like copper sulphate, mercury sulphite, lead chromate, and irritants like sand, glass powder which could result in eye irritation or even blindness.
  • The speckled shine in colours comes from silica and mica. These granular particles which make the colours shine brightly can cause damage to the cornea in the form of corneal abrasion later leading to corneal ulcer.
  • Various attractive colours are available of which green (containing copper) is more toxic to the eye. Other colours like purple, black, red containing different chemicals lead to skin diseases, respiratory diseases and silver is carcinogenic.
  • In 2012, around 200 people in Mumbai suffered from poisoning due to harmful industrial dye (which decreases oxygen in in the blood) used during Holi, with 2 children succumbing to death in the hospital.
  • Water balloons are the most dangerous and cause blunt trauma to the eye which may lead to bleeding in the eye, lens subluxation or dislocation, macular edema or retinal detachment and other emergencies which require urgent management. This may lead to loss of vision or even loss of an eye.
  • Dirty water can be a source of eye infections.
  • Falling on wet floors can cause trauma to the eye.
  • Eggs, cow dung can lead to blunt trauma and bleeding in the eye.

Here are some of the tips to be followed during Holi:

  • Do not use kerosene or turpentine oil to remove the colour. Do not vigorously rub your skin for removing the colour. Do not vigorously rub your skin for removing the colour as it will fade off in a few days.
  • Apply cream, especially around the eye area; this makes it easier for the colour to be wiped off.
  • In case there is contact with colours and it leads to a burning sensation, then the eyes and exposed skin can be washed with milk, which leads to neutralisation of any acidity.
  • Use herbal colours which are safe and do not cause injuries to the eyes. Red sandalwood powder can be used to make red colour, henna powder for the bright green colour and turmeric powder for yellow colour. Herbal gulaal is also available in the market these days.
  • Those wearing contact lenses should use disposable contact lenses during Holi.
  • When travelling, keep the car windows properly shut, so that balloons and water jets can be avoided.
  • Try to dissuade people from applying colour all over your face with their hands. If you fail to do so, be especially careful in keeping your eyes and lips tightly shut. Always request the person not to smear the colours near your eyes.
  • Avoid running or jumping on wet floors.
  • Children should wear plastic goggles with bands to prevent it from slipping, which are used during swimming to avoid ocular injuries.
  • Keep a big bucket of water handy for your children, so that they do not resort to gutter water and other unclean sources and cause eye infections.
  • If these colours enter the eyes while playing, they can cause mild irritation and redness, which usually subsided after washing vigorously with water.
  • However if there is intense pain and burning, one must get an opinion from an ophthalmologist. Also if clarity of vision is affected, an eye doctor must be consulted.
  • In case there is an eye injury due to a high speed balloon or stone, do not attempt to clean the eye as the water may be contaminated and cause infection. Shut the eye and rush to the nearest hospital.

Wishing you all a happy and safe Holi! Do not let this festival of colours take away the colours from your life says Professor and Head of the Department, Department of Ophthalmology, GMC, Nagpur Dr. A. H. Madan.