By now you've heard that you need "special viewing glasses" to watch the solar eclipse as it passes across North America today. But if you didn't grab a pair before they started selling out, don't even think about trying to steal a peek without them.
Yes, it's not some ploy to make you buy nerdy 3D-looking glasses—it's a really, really important accessory to have if you want to partake in this rare celestial event. But despite the widespread warnings, doctors are so nervous that people won't be taking proper precautions that hospitals around the country are gearing up for a surge in ER visits, according to a statement sent out by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). (Related: Your Guide to Watching the Solar Eclipse)
"I suspect there will be an increase in patient traffic to ERs, especially in the areas expecting a large influx of eclipse watchers," said Becky Parker, M.D., the president of ACEP, in the statement. With so many people disrupting their schedules to gather and watch the event, there's a greater possibility of something going awry. "Anything out of the ordinary that shakes up a regular routine, like this eclipse, or daylight savings, can lead to more vehicle accidents. Be mindful of that," said Dr. Parker.
The biggest concern, however, is for the people who won't protect their eyes well enough, thinking that a quick look at the sun won't cause them any harm. "If you choose to look at it, you must use proper eye protection from a reputable manufacturer," cautions Dr. Parker. "Staring at the sun—even for a second—can cause severe, permanent loss of vision. Remember, regular sunglasses do NOT offer enough protection." (And, as we previously reported in Your Guide to Watching the Upcoming Solar Eclipse, some companies have been stamping their glasses with a phony International Organization for Standardization (ISO) seal, so be sure to check out the approved list of vendors to make sure you're wearing the real deal.)
So yes, watching a total solar eclipse might seem like an opportunity you just can't miss, but you should still make your safety a priority—after all, you only get one set of eyes. The good news is, you'll get another chance to view this spectacular event in just seven years—April 8, 2024, to be exact. That should give you plenty of time to prepare properly if you didn't this time around.