Play enhances a young individual’s mental, physical, social and emotional well-being. It helps them learn how to be confident, resilient and independent. While playing, children also develop self-esteem, curiosity and problem-solving capabilities. These skills are necessary for establishing relationships and performing well in school.
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Parents are also able to connect more with their children through play. It can be challenging to consistently supervise your child as they have fun with their toys. That said, choose the things you allow them to play with responsibly. Some toys appear safe but can harm their eyes. Learn more about toy-related eye injuries from your local optician.
Toy-Related Eye Injuries
In 2020, 149,000 toy-related injuries led to emergency room visits, according to United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reports. While it seems like a huge figure, the cases significantly decreased since 2017, when there were around quarter-million incidents. It’s all thanks to the increasing awareness about toy safety.
Projectile-firing toys, high-powered lasers and some sports equipment increase the likelihood of eye injuries in children. Hyphema, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment are among the most common eye injuries that result from these toys. In some cases, they can also cause ruptured eyeballs, leading to reduced vision.
Which Toys Usually Cause Eye Injuries in Children?
Objects With Pointy or Sharp Tips
Sabers, wands, swords, fishing poles, bayonets and other pointy objects can hurt your child’s eyes when not used with caution. These items can poke or scratch the eyes, which could harm one’s vision. These eye injuries can also lead to irreversible vision loss and blindness.
Anything sharp and pointy can harm the eye. Even quick contact with an object with pointed ends can cause severe eye injury. Be careful of purchasing pointy toys even if the label on the packaging says it’s age-appropriate for the child you’re giving them to.
More than 600 patients are brought to emergency rooms yearly due to eye injuries caused by toy guns. Around 80% of these recorded cases occurred in young boys. Many toy guns today can launch projectiles up to 100 feet away. Using them is even more dangerous for younger children who don’t understand what shooting at a close distance can do to another person.
You may think water guns and water balloon launchers are safe since they shoot softer projectiles. However, they still pose the risk of blunt force trauma, which can lead to retinal detachment or vision loss.
Laser Pointers and Bright Flash Lights
Often, flashlights are used for creating shadow figures on walls, which is a fun activity for kids. Shadow play can help with a young one’s creativity. This device is safe as long as used correctly. Teach your child that flashlights must not be directed at another person’s eye. Doing so can cause temporary blindness, increasing the risk of physical injuries like slips and falls.
Moreover, be cautious of laser pointers because they can damage the eye. They can even cause permanent vision loss when directly pointed to the eyes.
Aerosol Spray or String
It may seem like aerosol sprays or strings are fun to play with, but they contain chemicals that can enter a child’s eye. These substances can cause a viral, bacterial or fungal eye infection. They can also result in pink eye or conjunctivitis.
When directly sprayed on the eyes, they could have serious consequences, including chemical conjunctivitis, corneal abrasions, permanent corneal scarring, vision-threatening burns, and internal or external eye infections. If chemicals from these aerosol cans come in contact with the eye, seek a specialist immediately.
Fireworks or Firecrackers
Experts strongly discourage parents from allowing their children to handle any form of fireworks and firecrackers. They can harm the eyes and various parts of the body. Many of them are also not manufactured according to FDA standards. It means they can suddenly ignite or explode.
Firework flames can reach up to 1,800 degrees, which is enough to melt gold. Your child can get severe burns from accidentally touching sparklers. They cause nearly half of all firework-related injuries in children below five.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Child’s Eyes?
Only Buy Age-Appropriate Toys
Make it a habit to check a toy’s age recommendation label before purchasing. You must also consider if your child is mature enough to play with a toy even if it’s age appropriate. Organize your kids’ toys, making sure younger ones don’t use things that belong to their older siblings. It’s also a good idea to teach them how to use their toys correctly to avoid accidentally hurting themselves.
Monitor Kids While Playing
Do your best to supervise your children while they are playing. Many things can happen while you are not looking. If you have kids participating in sports, be sure they have proper eye protection with polycarbonate lenses. During your eye exam, ask your doctor which eyewear is suitable for your child’s activity.
Teach Your Kids About Toy Safety
Educating your children about the importance of toy safety will encourage them to play a role in taking care of their eyes. It’s hard to predict what they can do when you are not around. However, you’ll have peace of mind that they are away from danger if you know they understand how important it is to keep their eyes safe while playing or participating in sports.
Don’t Allow Kids to Play With BB Guns
Projectile guns are not safe for children to play with, especially younger ones. Anything that shoots objects through the air poses a risk of eye injury. Eye doctors encounter thousands of young patients with eyes injured from airsoft, BB and other toy guns. If your kids would like to paintball or play cops and robbers, have them wear protective goggles.
Be Cautious of Pointy Toys
It isn’t uncommon for superhero weapons to be made into toys. Your child could accidentally hurt their eyes while pretending to be their favorite hero, knight, wizard or magician. Use ninja stars, lightsabers and other pointy toys with caution.
Laser Pointers Shouldn’t Be Handled by Kids
Many studies worldwide discovered that kids can suffer from serious eye injuries from high-powered lasers. Lasers between 1,5000 and 6,000 milliwatts have sufficient strength to damage the retina. Even brief exposure to the eye can have detrimental effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discourages everyone from directing a laser pointer at another person and buying them for kids.
What Should You Do if Your Child’s Eyes Get Hurt?
Don’t panic if your child gets hurt while playing. Instead, contact the nearest emergency room. Ask if there is an on-call ophthalmologist. Specialists are trained to perform a thorough eye examination and provide proper treatment. Sometimes, hospitals recommend directly going to an eye doctor’s office to get treated.
While waiting for treatment, avoid touching, rubbing or putting pressure on your child’s eye. If there is a foreign object in the affected eye, never try to remove it yourself. Rinsing with water or using over-the-counter eye drops might do more harm to an injured eye. Keep the eye protected with the bottom of a paper cup but be careful not to press it against the eye.