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Don't Be Blinded by the Sight of the Eclipse

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Experts say ordinary sunglasses aren't protective enough for viewers of the solar eclipse on Monday. You need those certified eclipse glasses. Ten-packs were selling on Amazon today for $12.99.

© James Thew - stock.adobe.com

Eclipse © James Thew - stock.adobe.com

A recent survey from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center showed that nearly 1 in 3 Americans are unaware of the risks associated with eye damage while viewing the upcoming total solar eclipse set to occur on April 8 at 3:20 p.m. ET.

Nearly 32 million Americans will be along the “path of totality” where they will be able to experience an eerie, dawnlike darkness during the height of the eclipse, which will last about 4 minutes.

It is never safe to look directly at the sun, even when the moon is blocking much of it as happens during a solar eclipse, because the brigthness can potentially permanent damage that can occur to the retina and cornea.

“The best way you can enjoy yourself is to be prepared,” Nicholas Kman, MD, emergency medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center said in an interview with Managed Healthcare Executive today. “The safest way to view the eclipse is with certified eclipse glasses. There are also different types of welder’s goggles that are designed to protect the eyes from bright flashes of light. Other than that, normal sunglasses would not be adequate for this, even if they seem very dark.”

Eclipse glasses, which are ISO-certified, are available online and may be given out for free at community spaces such as local libraries.

The last eclipse, a partial solar eclipse, happened in 2017. The upcoming total eclipse is much rarer and won’t be seen again in the United States for another 20 years, according to NASA. The path of totality will also be much broader than the one in 2017.

“We learned a lot of lessons from the eclipse in 2017 - the traffic jams were incredible," Kman said. "One of the things that we're worried about as a hospital is ‘can we get our staff to work?’ It’s almost like a severe weather event.”

In Ohio, where Kman is based, people within a 124-mile wide band will experience the total eclipse. The zone falls between Toledo and Cleveland and then slices south and west through the state.

“If the weather's good, there's been estimates of about three times the normal amount of people in each of the counties that are in the eclipse path,” Kman said. “In our smaller counties, three times the number of people would put a large stress on gas stations, cell towers, law enforcement and EMS providers.

Before traveling for the eclipse, Kman recommends that in addition to the right eye protection, people should have a full tank of gas, snacks, cellphone chargers and a plan if the group gets separated.

“We want people to enjoy themselves, but the best way you can enjoy yourself is to be prepared.”

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