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Eye Health: New toys from Santa? Here are a few eye safety tips every parent should know

By Dr. Dawn Stratton
KyForward columnist

Is your house filled with new toys after Christmas? As a mom of two young sons, my living room is a combination of guns, balls, cars and Legos. While all of these are fun and can keep kids occupied for hours, some toys pose a serious risk for eye injuries.

(Photo from AllAboutVision.com)

Aerosol string is one of several toys that can cause eye injuries. (Photo from AllAboutVision.com)

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, roughly a quarter million children are seen in hospital emergency departments each year due to toy-related injuries. Nearly half of these injuries are to the head and face, and many are eye injuries. Yet, 41 percent of parents polled by AllAboutVision.com either “rarely” or “never” considered eye safety when choosing toys.

Common eye injuries caused by mishaps with toys can range from a minor scratch to the front surface of the eye (called a corneal abrasion) to very serious, sight-threatening injuries such as corneal ulcers, traumatic cataracts, bleeding inside the eye and retinal detachment. Here’s a list of six types of toys with a high potential risk for eye injuries:

1. Guns that shoot any type of projectile. This includes toy guns that shoot lightweight, cushy darts.

2. Water balloon launchers and water guns. Water balloons can cause serious blunt trauma to the eye that can cause a retinal detachment and permanent vision loss. Even toy guns that shoot a stream of water can cause serious eye damage, especially when used at close range.

3. Games that include toy fishing poles. The end of a toy fishing pole or objects secured to the end of the fishing line can easily end up in a playmate’s eye.

4. Toy wands, swords, sabers or guns with bayonets. It’s easy to see why all of these are bad ideas!

5. Aerosol string. The chemicals in these products can cause eye irritation and a type of pink eye called chemical conjunctivitis. When used at close range, aerosol string also can cause a corneal abrasion that could lead to serious eye infections.

6. Laser pointers and bright flashlights. Portable laser pointers, like those used for business presentations, should never be used by children, as the light intensity of these devices is sufficient to cause permanent vision loss.

Also, it’s usually best to shop for toys in a store rather than online so you can see the item’s features up close to help you decide if it’s safe. And, while toy packaging usually includes a recommended age range of children for whom the toy was designed, keep in mind that these are general guidelines only.


Dr. Dawn Stratton, O.D., is the founder of Stratton Eyes. She is a graduate of Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago and earned her Doctor of Optometry in 1994. Based in Lexington, Dr. Stratton is a member of American Optometric Association, the Kentucky Optometric Association, the National Association of Professional Women and the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists. She also provides eye exams for patients at the Hope Center, Room at the Inn and The Nest. Visit Stratton-Eyes.com for more information or call 859-245-2020 or email office@strattoneyes.com. You can also find the office on Facebook and on Twitter @StrattonEyes.

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