Choose safe toys this holiday

in Contributors/Dr. Mark Siegel, MD FAAO by

By Mark S. Siegel, MD

No one chooses gifts with the intent to harm, but some popular children’s toys can cause serious eye injuries. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 265,000 toy-related injuries were treated in emergency rooms in 2012, and almost half of these injuries affect the head or face – including the eyes. Unfortunately, most of these injuries happen to children under age 15.

‘You’ll shoot your eye out’

Some propelling toys, like air soft guns, BB guns, paintball guns and darts can be particularly hazardous, with the potential to cause serious eye injuries such as corneal abrasion, ocular hyphema (bleeding inside the eye), traumatic cataract, increased intraocular pressure and even permanent vision loss.

Another dangerous toy category is toys with laser components, which have increased in power and decreased in price over the years. Lasers can be especially hazardous when used in toys that are aimed, such as a laser gun. Blue light lasers are particularly dangerous, as they are more likely to cause retinal injury compared with green or red lasers. Studies show that exposure for even fractions of a second to high-powered blue handheld laser devices can cause serious eye injuries — including macular holes — which often require surgical intervention. In addition, the FDA warns that laser pointers are not toys and should only be used with adult supervision.

The good news is that following these toy safety tips can easily prevent most eye injuries:

• Avoid purchasing toys with sharp, protruding or projectile parts.

• Make sure children have appropriate supervision when playing with potentially hazardous toys or games that could cause an eye injury.

• Ensure that laser product labels include a statement that the device complies with 21 CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations) Subchapter J.

• Along with sports equipment, give children the appropriate protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses. Check with your ophthalmologist to learn about protective gear recommended for your child’s sport.

• Check labels for age recommendations and be sure to select gifts that are appropriate for a child’s age and maturity.

• Keep toys that are made for older children away from younger children.

If a child experiences an eye injury from a toy, seek immediate medical attention.