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Careful of those Flying Champagne Corks

For most people ringing in the New Year means celebrating with friends and family, champagne toasts and cheer, but if you get hit in the eye with a champagne cork, it may mean a trip to the emergency room.

“A cork can fly up to 50 miles per hour as it leaves the bottle,” says Tamara Fountain, MD, a clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Warm bottles of champagne and poor technique in removing the cork can result in serious, blinding eye injuries. Anything that travels with such momentum can have a devastating effect if it strikes your eye.”

A few simple steps can eliminate this common holiday injury. “Knowing the right way to open a bottle of champagne will make your holidays enjoyable and safe,” says Dr. Fountain.

Here are some tips on opening a bottle of champagne properly:

  • Make sure sparkling wine is chilled to at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit before opening. The cork of a warm bottle is more likely to pop unexpectedly.
  • Don’t shake the bottle. Shaking increases your chances of eye injury.
  • To open the bottle safely, hold down the cork with the palm of your hand while removing the wire hood. Point the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from yourself and from any bystanders.
  • Place a towel over the entire top of the bottle and grasp the cork.
  • Keep the bottle at a 45-degree angle as you slowly and firmly twist the bottle while holding the cork to break the seal. Continue to hold the cork while twisting the bottle. Continue until the cork is almost out of the neck. Counter the force of the cork using slight downward pressure just as the cork breaks free from the bottle.
  • Never use a corkscrew to open a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine.
This article reprinted with permission from the American Academy of Ophthalmology's EyeSmart Campaign (www.geteyesmart.org).

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