Gift-giving season is just around the corner, and you may already be planning what toys or games to purchase for your little loved ones. The unfortunate reality, however, is that between 2015 and 2018 over 1 million toy-related injuries were treated at emergency rooms across the US. Not surprisingly, boys account for almost 2 out 3 of all these injuries. Some of these injuries have resulted in permanent vision loss, even blindness.
Data computed from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) reported on eye injuries from toy guns with projectiles: over a ten year period (2010-2019), 6,617 cases of ocular trauma due to toy guns were recorded in ED across the US, most concerning is that over 60% of these eye injuries were in children under age 9.
The most common pediatric eye injuries include corneal abrasions (scratches to the outer surface of the eye), corneal hyphema (collection of blood inside the eye, from an internal injury), a ruptured or punctured eyeball, and retinal detachment.
That’s why it’s so important to be aware of which features make a toy less or more likely to cause injury. By keeping the following tips in mind when picking out gifts, you'll minimize the risk of any toy-related eye injuries.
Toys With a High Risk of Causing Eye Injury
1. Shooting Toys/Guns
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has made public statements about the risks that toy guns pose to children’s eyes. Even toy guns that shoot soft projectiles or darts are considered unsafe.
Many of these guns can shoot projectiles 75-150 feet away, making them especially dangerous for younger children who may play with them indoors and in close range of other children or adults, as they may not realize the power of these toy guns.
Even water balloon launchers can cause blunt force trauma to a child’s eye and lead to retinal detachment or vision loss.
If you decide to purchase this type of toy, make sure that the children are supervised and that they wear protective eyewear while using them.
2. Toys with Pointed or Sharp Ends
This one doesn’t require much explanation — if it’s pointy, it’s risky.
Toys like swords, fishing poles, wands, bows and arrows, darts and sabers are all hazardous to eye health as even the briefest contact between the object and the eye can cause a serious eye injury.
Even if the toy’s packaging says that it’s age appropriate, think twice before handing over a pointy object or any item with sharp edges to a child, especially if other children are around.
3. Aerosol Spray/Spray Streamer
If the product that comes out of these aerosol cans gets into a child’s eye, it can cause chemical conjunctivitis (pink eye) or sight-threatening chemical burns, depending on the nature of the spray. When used at close proximity to a child’s face, spray streamers can also cause corneal abrasion, which can lead to bacterial, viral or fungal eye infections and even vision loss.
Several organizations, including Prevent Blindness, recommend that children never be allowed to play with fireworks or firecrackers. There simply isn’t a safe way for non-professionals to handle these explosive devices.
Protect the children in your life from probable danger by avoiding gifting fireworks or firecrackers, no matter the occasion.
5. Bright Flashlights and Laser Pointers
The light intensity of laser pointers can be damaging to kids’ eyes and even cause permanent vision loss.
Though flashlights aren’t toys, kids love playing with them. When shone directly into a child’s eyes, the bright light can cause temporary blindness, which puts them at risk of getting injured in other ways, like tripping or bumping into things.
How To Choose Eye-Safe Toys
- Try shopping in-store rather than online so you can see what the toy looks like in person.
- Examine the toy closely for any potential factors for eye injury, as outlined above.
- Consult with the child’s parents before giving a gift to be sure they’re okay with the toy you’d like to buy.
- If you’re purchasing sports equipment, make sure to supply the appropriate protective eyewear as well.
- Bear in mind the ages of the other children who may come into contact with the toy.
- Consider the age and maturity of the child you are shopping for. Just because the age recommendation on the box says it’s appropriate, it doesn’t guarantee that it is safe for all children. Take the child’s level of maturity and penchant for risk-taking into account.
Some eye-safe toys and games for kids include many types of arts and crafts kits, card games, building toys and board games. Arts and crafts projects involving wood, glass or other potentially sharp objects should be used with protective eyewear.
No matter what toy or game you decide to purchase for a child, make sure they are always supervised when playing. The good news is that most pediatric eye injuries are preventable with the correct protective eyewear and supervision, and by choosing low-risk toys and games.
At Eyes of New Mexico Family Optometry and Contact Lenses, we are here to assist with all matters of eye health and care, and wish a safe and healthy holiday season to all of our valued patients!
To schedule an eye exam or to ask any questions about our services, call Eyes of New Mexico Family Optometry and Contact Lenses in Albuquerque today.
Q: What should I do in the event of a toy-related eye injury?
- A: If your child sustains a toy-related eye injury, seek medical attention from your eye doctor, without delay. Do not try to remove an object that’s lodged in the eye, unless you are certain that it's easy to remove, like a piece of dust or eyelash. Instruct your child not to rub their eyes, as rubbing can often worsen the problem. If your eye doctor is unavailable, seek emergency medical care at your nearest urgent care center.
Q: Can a toy-related injury cause corneal abrasion?
- A: Yes. A sharp piece of metal or debris, like a tiny shard of glass, can scratch the cornea—known as corneal abrasion.
A deep abrasion can cause an eye infection or a corneal ulcer, so if your child gets a foreign substance in their eye without successfully flushing it out, contact your eye doctor as soon as possible.
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