Eye Injuries: Are All Toys Safe for Children?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, December 6, 2020
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An estimated 11,000 toy-related eye injuries occur in the United States, each year.

When purchasing toys for your children keep in mind that many toys can pose a risk of eye injury. Many of these toys are popular among children, but if mishandled, can turn a fun playdate with a friend into a trip to the emergency room.

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Popular toys that can cause an eye injury

  1. Guns that shoot any type of dart, pellet, balloon or even water. Most toy guns can shoot at a fast enough speed to cause real harm— even if the “missile” looks completely harmless. Toy guns, water guns and water balloon launchers can cause severe eye damage and even loss of vision.
  2. Pointy objects such as swords, sabers, wands, bayonets, fishing poles, and anything else of the sort can lead to eye damage if the user is not careful. Many eye injuries occur from getting poked or scratched on the eye and can lead to serious consequences, including permanent vision loss and blindness.
  3. Aerosol string contains chemicals that can cause eye irritation and even chemical conjunctivitis.
  4. Bright flashlights and laser pointers contain a light intensity strong enough to cause temporary or even permanent vision loss if shined into the eye.

The most common toy-related eye injuries include:

  • Corneal abrasions
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Traumatic cataracts
  • Retinal detachment
  • Internal eye bleeding

Since it may be difficult to avoid these popular toys altogether, it is important to teach your child about eye safety and instruct them how to properly play with these toys. With appropriate use, these toys can be safe and fun to play with.

An important rule to emphasize is, never point anything— a gun, pointy object, bright light, chemical spray, or any other object— in the direction of someone’s eyes.

What to do if your child has injured their eye

If your child has sustained an eye injury, contact your eye doctor or primary care physician immediately.

Most doctors have emergency numbers that you can use after hours, or on weekends. If you cannot reach your doctor, go straight to the nearest emergency room.

The earlier your child is seen by a medical professional, the higher their chances will be for optimal treatment results.

What to do if a foreign object is stuck in your child’s eye

While it is important to contact your eye doctor if a foreign object is stuck in your child’s eye, sometimes it is possible to remove the object by yourself.

Only attempt to remove the object if you are confident that the object is easy to remove, such as an eyelash or piece of dust, and has not caused any eye damage. 

Follow these steps to safely remove the object from your child’s eye:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Locate the object.
  3. Instruct your child to squeeze their eyelids shut and blink to produce tears which will flush the object out. Avoid rubbing the eyes, as it can make the problem worse.
  4. If the object is behind the upper eyelid: pull their upper lid gently over their lower lid, instruct them to look upward to push the object off the upper lid.
  5. If the object is under the lower lid or in the corner of their eye, use a damp soft cloth or cotton swab to gently remove it.
  6. Use a cup of lukewarm water to flush the object out by slowly pouring lukewarm water into their eye and letting the water run down their face.

The eyes are extremely delicate. If you are unable to remove the object from your eye, stay calm and contact your eye doctor for emergency assistance.

Protecting children from eye injuries starts with prevention

It is important to educate your child about eye injury risks during playtime and the importance of being careful while playing with certain toys.

It is equally important to protect your child’s eyes with protective eyewear during certain games and activities.

By educating your child, you are empowering them with the tools they need to protect themselves when outside of your supervision.