IT IS a Hallowe’en game dating back nearly 2,000 years to Roman times.

Hundreds of children every year get a soaking as they try to sink their teeth into the apples floating in a basin of water.

But now a Southampton doctor is warning that the timeless tradition of apple bobbing – or apple dunking – could be bad for our health.

Parwez Hossain, a consultant ophthalmologist at Southampton General Hospital, said that every year his department treats problems picked up by people playing the game.

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These include scratches, infections and other eye injuries caused by hitting an apple at force when dunking heads into the water.

Mr Hossain said there was also the possibility of people contracting potentially serious corneal infections from dirty water or residue of liquids if the bowls used were not cleaned properly.

Apple bobbing is thought to have originated in Celtic times when the Romans conquered Britain.

The ubiquitous apple, representing love and fertility, became part of the Celtic Samhain festival.

Mr Hossain said that other Hallowe’en favourites like lanterns, night flares and glow sticks are also often the cause of avoidable accidents.

He said: “They may seem like innocuous objects, but we have seen people turning up with nasty corneal abrasions where they have caught the edge of a lantern on Hallowe’en or with mild ocular irritation after breaking glow sticks or night flares and suffering the effects of contents splashing into the eye.”

The eye unit is also warning of the after-effects of misusing popular fancy dress contact lenses, through lack of general care and hygiene, because people are not familiar with using them.

Mr Hossain said: “We are not telling people to avoid fun and games, but we are asking people to take a bit of extra care while enjoying themselves at Hallowe’en so they avoid an unwanted trip to hospital.”