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Rubbing the Holi marks off skin

health-and-fitness Updated: Mar 25, 2008 17:32 IST
Sai Raje
Sai Raje
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Seven children in Thane, including a year-old toddler, suffered painful burn injuries after their faces were smeared with chemically enhanced colours while playing Holi. This is just one of many similarly serious cases that occurred across the city. Not to mention the slew of other minor skin, eye, and hair ailments that start cropping up in the week after the festival. If you suspect you may be running into similar trouble, here are some tips on damage control.

Some rashes can make an appearance immediately, others take longer to show up. We’d say you’re not out of danger until a week is up.

“I’ve already had one patient cometomeon Sunday,witha large red, blotchy rash on her skin, caused by the colours she played with on Holi,” says Dr Meenakshi Agarwal, a plastic surgeon and director of Face and Figure. Doctors say that nearly 10-20 patients come to them with Holi colour-related problems, during the week after the festival.

But if your eyes are already itchy, or you suspect trouble with your hair or skin, read on to know howthe coloursmay have harmed you and howyou can deal with it.

Delicate stuff first
You may already knowhowharmful some of the colours used on Holi can be. But we are still going to harp about that, because it’s important to stress how dangerous the effects can be, especially on your eyes,which are one of the most delicate parts of the body.

“Most of the Holi colours sold now-a-days are dyes meant for industrial uses, and are not meant to be applied on humans. These colours may contain heavy metals, acids, alkalis, and powdered glass. All these are toxic and can result in anything from mild to severe eye irritation, corneal damage, and temporary blindness in severe situations,” says Dr Keiki Mehta, president of the Contact Lens Society of India and director, Mehta Eye Institute, Colaba.

Eye to eye “If your eyes can’t bear sunlight and turn red or are painful by the end of the day, there’s a definite problem,” he adds. So if you have been sensing any redness, irritation or dryness of the eyes, see a doctor right away. Don’t wait for it to get any worse. Depending on how long the dye was in contact with your eye, different problems may arise.

“The dye first comes in close contact with the eye’s cornea (transparent outer layer, covering your iris) and destroys it. Our cornea usually has the ability to bond or reseal itself again in case of any damage. But the dye destroys this ability of the corneal cells and causes lasting damage,” says Dr Mehta.

If the quantity of the dye and the duration it comes in contact with your eye is more, it can even penetrate your iris and enter your retina, causing irritation and painful swelling.

“The damage it causes, from irritation and redness to temporary and partial blindness varies from person to person,” says Mehta. Minor eye irritations though can be easily curedwith lubricant eye drops prescribed by your doctor, he adds. Make a point to wash your eyes with lots of water often for a few days after Holi.

Don’t use contact lenses
Hopefully, better sense prevailed, and you left your contact lenses at home during Holi, as these can concentrate the dye into your eyes for longer periods and amplify their effects.

“If you did use contact lenses and colour entered your eye, discard the lenses, even if your eye hasn’t developed problems as it is virtually impossible to clean the dye off,” advises Dr Mehta.

Skin irritations
“The most common minor skin irritations caused by harmful colours are itchy, splotchy red rashes that are the result of an allergic reaction to somedyes, dryness and acne or pimple eruptions.

Any damage to the skin makes it prone to pigmentation or skin darkening in bright sunlight,” says Dr Vinay Goklani, consultant dermatologist, Thane Skin Centre. “These symptoms can be dealt with by applying steroid creams prescribed by a skin specialist or moisturising lotions. Also apply sunscreen and don’t venture out under the hot sun until you are fine,” he adds.

If you’ve come out of the Holi mess looking like a colourful baboon, scrubbing your skin hard to get rid of the colour isn’t going to help. “Don’t scrub your skin hard for days afterwards to get rid of the colour. It will take a fewdays for it to go off. Use glycerine-based mild soaps for your skin for a few days.

A mixture of sea salt, glycerine and few drops of aroma oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that can minimise the effects of chemical colours,” says DrAgarwal.

Hair tangles
Thankfully, dyes don’t cause serious hair problems. The most common complaint seems to be hair fall, dryness or hair that is matted after all that soaking in chemical hues.

“One patient had developed boils on her scalp, but that is very rare. Just clean your hair properly with a mild shampoo for a month or two after Holi, use a good conditioner and it should be fine,” says DrAgarwal.