All of us look forward to Holi every year because it is the only time when we can colour each other with gulaal and other colours! But during Holi, injuries are also very common. Doctors get a number of patients with eye problems and skin reactions.

Injuries to the skin: Dr Deepti Ghia, Consultant Dermatologist at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre says that the most common health risks with regards to Holi are skin allergies or contact dermatitis because the colours of Holi are loaded with heavy metals that have contact sensitisation potential. So after these colours are applied to the skin, people usually suffer from rashes and burning sensation. Hives can also get aggravated with Holi. “The water people play with can also be contaminated and this can lead to other infections. This water can sometimes contain even faecal matter. If somebody has an open wound or a cut it could get secondarily infected because of the contaminated water,” says Dr Deepti.

With regards to precautionary measures, Dr Deepti suggests oiling the hair and body as the oil forms a barrier and doesn’t let the colours stick to the hair and skin directly. “Oil forms a protective coating. A thick moisturising cream or coconut oil smeared all over the body works very well. The colour doesn’t stick easily to the skin and that prevents sensitization,” says Dr Deepti. It is always better to play dry Holi with organic colours. Avoid colours like silver and gold and fluorescent colours because those are the ones that have a lot of heavy metals in them. Try to wear full sleeved shirts and pants.

While cleaning your skin and hair, avoid harsh cleansers. “You tend to rub your skin to remove the colours by using loofahs and scrubs, ubtan and chane ka atta. This worsens the skin and can irritate it. Always clean gently. Don’t try to remove the colours immediately. The colours need to be washed off but remember that even if they don’t go with the first wash, the stains will gradually fade away as the staining happens only on the first layer of the skin. It should take a few days for the top layer to lighten. Don’t be aggressive while cleaning. Don’t over-shampoo your hair to get rid of the colours. Bath twice a day,” Dr Deepti suggests.

Even organic colours or turmeric in excess can cause problems. So stick to moderation.

Eye injuries: Dr Phiroze Patel, Director, Department of Opthalmology, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre says, “Eye irritation because of chemical dyes and contaminated water is very common. Also, when people use pichkaaris, the water can shoot up and hit your eye with force. This can cause congestion and eyes allergies. In worst cases, the cornea gets damaged or there is a perforation in the cornea, eyeball or the lens at the back of the eyes because of the impact force. Silver and golden colours tend to be either acidic or alkaline which can cause burns in the cornea.”  The best way to deal with eye injuries is by splashing cold water or using lubricant eye drops. But if the injury is serious, go to a doctor immediately. Don’t throw water or colours on anyone. Instead, apply the colours gently especially if you want to colour someone’s face.