NEW YORK - As many people gear
up for their celebration of Halloween, which often includes pranks like throwing
raw eggs at strangers, a team of UK researchers warns about the potential eye
damage that can be caused by this practice.
They report in the Emergency Medicine Journal on 13 individuals who were
treated for such injuries.
"Although most of our patients showed improvement in visual acuity, there
were severe injuries, with the potential for severe ocular morbidity," write Dr.
Jon Durnian, of Royal Liverpool University Hospital, UK, and colleagues.
"We conclude that there is sufficient injury caused by this prank to warrant
a public health message," they add.
The researchers note that in the United States, five cases of assault with
thrown eggs were reported around Halloween in 1988, two of which resulted in
permanent vision loss. Further, as recently as 2003, three people in Ireland
experienced severe loss of vision due to injury from thrown eggs.
Eggs, which are similar in size to squash balls, are much heavier, and can
act as missiles, "causing severe blunt injury even when thrown by hand," the
To draw more attention to the topic, Durnian and colleagues analyzed eye
injuries among patients that came to the St. Paul's Eye Unit at the hospital
between November 1, 2004 and December 31, 2005.
Among a total of 18,651 admissions to the unit, 13 of them (0.07 percent)
were due to eye injuries from thrown eggs, the investigators found.
Most (12) of these patients were men, 28 years old on average. Three patients
had minor injuries, such as bruising and bloodshot eyes, which were treated with
antibiotics, and two had intermediate injuries.
The remaining eight patients had severe injuries, including tears to the
retina and increased eye pressure, which can lead to permanent vision loss.
One patient, a 27-year-old man, was hit by an egg while riding in a car. He
experienced significantly decreased vision, which remained poor more than two
months after the incident, and permanent damage to the retina. What's more,
additional injuries from the thrown egg put him at lifelong risk of developing
glaucoma, the report indicates.
Another man, injured when an egg was thrown from a moving vehicle, complained
of "pain and mildly reduced vision," the researchers report. He showed slow
improvement during subsequent visits, but upon sneezing one day more than a
month after the incident, he experienced an immediate decrease in vision. His
treatment ultimately required several major surgical procedures, but he
eventually recovered completely.
Overall, the egg-throwing incidents occurred throughout the year, but several
were clustered in October, "which is coincident with the Halloween season," the
Throwing raw eggs at strangers is becoming increasingly common on Halloween
and "mischief night," yet "the hazards of egg throwing, on and around Halloween,
seem to go unnoticed," they add.
"This sort of mischief can be interpreted as innocent, but as seen in our
series, can lead to severe ocular morbidity," Durnian and colleagues