By Mark Siegel, MD, FAAO
It’s that time of the year that children start to participate more in sports, recreation, crafts or home projects, it’s important for them to know eye safety practices and use protective glasses as appropriate. Each year thousands of children sustain eye damage or even blindness from accidents at home, at play in the car or even at the dinner table (forks can be detrimental to the eye). More than 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented through use of suitable protective eyewear.
Sports deserve particular attention, because eye injuries occur fairly often in children and young adult athletes: between the ages of five and 14, most sports-related injuries in the U.S. occur while playing baseball.
• Children should wear sports eye protectors made with polycarbonate lenses for baseball, basketball, football, racquet sports, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, paintball, and hunting.
• All chemicals and sprays must be kept out of reach of small children.
• Parents and others who provide care and supervision for children need to practice safe use of common items that can cause serious eye injury, such as paper clips, pencils, scissors, bungee cords, wire coat hangers and rubber bands.
• Teach your children by example by safeguarding your own sight with ANSI-approved protective eyewear during potentially dangerous yard work and household repairs or projects.
• Only purchase age-appropriate toys.
• Avoid projectile toys such as darts, bows and arrows, and missile-firing toys.
• Look for toys marked with “ASTM”, which means the product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
• Use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs. Pad or cushion sharp corners. Put locks on all cabinets and drawers that kids can reach.
• Do not allow your children to play with non-powder rifles, pellet guns or BB guns. They are extremely dangerous and have been reclassified as firearms and removed from toy departments.
• Do not allow children anywhere near fireworks, especially bottle rockets. These fireworks pose a serious risk of eye injury and have been banned in several states.
An ophthalmologist, primary care doctor, school nurse or children’s health service should examine the eye as soon as possible, even if the injury seems minor at first, as a serious injury is not always immediately obvious. Delaying medical attention can cause the damaged areas to worsen and could result in permanent vision loss or blindness.