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Kids' Toys and Eye Safety: Making a List, Checking it Twice

Dec 13, 2017

In the chaos and rush of holiday shopping for kids' toys, eye safety isn't always top of mind. But Prevent Blindness America has declared December as Safe Toys and Gift Awareness Month for good reason. "It's really sobering when we see a child with a serious eye injury that could have easily been prevented with common sense or protective eyewear," says John A. Moran Eye Center ophthalmologist and oculoplastic surgeon, Douglas P Marx, MD.

Marx and eye doctors around the country have their own seasonal message: take some time to think and maybe even do some research before you shop to consider whether or not a toy could pose a danger to your kids or to anyone they play with. Does your child really need a Wonder Woman Battle-Action Sword or a Nerf Zombie Strike Deadbolt Crossbow? Both made the "Most Dangerous Toys of 2017" list issued by issued by W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm).

The risk is real

Last year the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that the nation's hospital emergency departments treated almost a quarter of a million toy-related injuries. An estimated 88,700 of those injuries were to children younger than age five. And, 45 percent of the total injuries were to the head and face area.

"We see everything from corneal abrasions (minor scratches to the front of the eye) to sight-threatening traumatic cataracts, bleeding inside the eye, corneal ulcers, and retinal detachments caused by the usual--sharp objects and projectiles," says Marx. "These injuries may also be caused by toys you'd never even think of—like a slimeball launcher or aerosol string."

But what if…

But what if you decide to go ahead and get that crossbow or sword because your child really, really wants it and you plan to 'make sure' that they play safely?

"In that case, I would encourage them to add safety eyewear as a stocking stuffer," says Marx. "There are kid-size, affordable options in stores or online, and you can even have them choose one with a look or colors that they enjoy, so they are more likely to remember to wear it."

If sports equipment is also on your shopping list, says Marx, also remember to make proper eye protection part of the package. Different sports present different risks and needs. This guide offers specifics.

Your shopping checklist for general eye safety

  • Avoid toys that shoot or include parts that fly off.
  • Consider whether or not the toy right for the child's ability and age, and whether younger, smaller children may have access to the toy.
  • Avoid toys with sharp or rigid points, spikes, rods, or dangerous edges.
  • Buy toys that will withstand impact and not break into dangerous shards.
  • Look for the letters "ASTM." This means the product meets the national safety standards set by ASTM International (The American Society for Testing and Materials).
    • If you're buying sunglasses or ski goggles, make sure they are labeled as 100 percent UV blocking