Uncork With Care During Holiday Celebrations

ChampagneThe holidays and New Year’s Eve, in particular, are a great time to enjoy a glass of bubbly. But warm bottles of champagne and improper cork-removal techniques cause serious, potentially blinding eye injuries each year, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

“The pop from the opening of a champagne bottle is like a herald of good times to come. But the old adage, ‘It’s all fun and games until someone pokes an eye out,’ rings true,” says oculoplastic surgeon Alexander On, MD. “The popping cork is a high velocity missile that can cause serious damage to the delicate structures of the eye and surrounding tissue.”

The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s news release noted that champagne bottles contain pressure as high as 90 pounds per square inch – more than the pressure found inside a typical car tire. This pressure can launch a champagne cork at 50 miles per hour as it leaves the bottle, which is fast enough to shatter glass. Cork mishaps can lead to a variety of serious eye injuries, including rupture of the eye wall, acute glaucoma, retinal detachment, ocular bleeding, dislocation of the lens, and damage to the eye’s bone structure. These injuries sometimes require urgent eye surgeries and can even lead to blindness in the affected eye.

For a safe celebration, follow the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s simple tips on how to properly open a bottle of champagne:

  • Chill sparkling wine and champagne to 45 degrees Fahrenheit or colder before opening. The cork of a warm bottle is more likely to pop unexpectedly.
  • Don’t shake the bottle. Shaking increases the speed at which the cork leaves the bottle thereby increasing your chance of severe eye injury.
  • Point the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from yourself and any bystanders and hold down the cork with the palm of your hand while removing the wire hood on the bottle.
  • Place a towel over the entire top of the bottle and grasp the cork.
  • Twist the bottle while holding the cork at a 45 degree angle to break the seal. Counter the force of the cork using downward pressure as the cork breaks free from the bottle.

“Care should be taken to aim the bottle away from people,” explains Dr. On. “If, by chance, an injury should occur, it should be considered an emergency and medical care should be sought immediately.”

With that said, Dr. On and the Ophthalmology Team at Virginia Mason wishes everyone: “Happy holidays, have fun and be safe.”

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