An ophthalmologist's advice on holiday gifts for kids
As an ophthalmologist specializing in pediatric eye disease and injuries, the John A. Moran Eye Center's Griffin Jardine, MD, knows a lot about kids. He sees them in his daily practice, and he has a few at home. So when it comes to the annual dilemma about buying eye-safe toys for everyone from toddlers to teens, he takes a cautious but realistic view.
"Severe eye injuries from toys are relatively uncommon, so I don't think parents need to change their entire approach to holiday toy-buying to prevent eye injuries," he says. "They just need to remember and enforce some best practices when it comes to playtime."
Airsoft and foam toy blasters
"I definitely see a lot of hyphemas, a bleeding in the eye that is treatable, but no fun at all," he says. "Most are caused by popular projectile toys—especially airsoft guns. We also see our share of foam bullet injuries. Overall, these products are getting increasingly powerful, making them more fun and in demand.
"The best practices with projectile play guns are pretty straightforward. My family likes to wear our ski goggles when we play. Goggles wrap around the eyes and head in a way that makes them super safe. Also, many airsoft toymakers recommend full masks with eye protection, though they are sold separately. Some of the masks make pretty cool armor that kids like to wear. Of course, you can also buy other approved protective eyewear made for kids."
Jardine advises stowing foam and airsoft guns away when they're not in use and keeping them away from toddlers.
Holiday toys safety checklist
When it comes to choosing among all the toys available today, Jardine offers this eye safety checklist:
- Avoid toys that include parts that fly off.
- Consider whether or not the toy is suitable 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 the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Gift ideas for children
You still have a world of choices for kids' gifts. Here's an ophthalmologist-approved list of ideas for timeless, safe fun:
- Legos or other building blocks.
- Paint sets and easels, coloring books, and crayons.
- Age-appropriate board games that are good for learning how to count, tell time, or require memorization.
- Puzzles, from small and simple to big and complicated (but keep small pieces out of a toddler's reach.)
- Word and picture games.
- Card games—especially social card games that get teens away from their phones and interacting with friends and family.
- Old-fashioned games such as jacks or paddle ball, which build hand-eye coordination.
- Outdoor-inspired gifts such as bicycles, snow gear, and skates.
- Stocking-stuffers such as compasses, kid-friendly cooking utensils, Silly Putty.
What to do if an eye injury happens
"As careful as we are, eye injuries do happen," says Jardine, "And some may not be obvious right away. For anything beyond grit in the eye or a small scratch, see an ophthalmologist, primary care doctor, or school nurse as soon as possible. Delays may cause damaged areas to worsen and, in the worst case, could result in permanent vision loss. Never try to treat a serious injury by yourself."
Symptoms that should send you to the doctor:
- Ongoing eye pain.
- Trouble seeing.
- A cut or torn eyelid.
- Lack of movement, or slower movement in one eye.
- One eye sticks out of the eye socket farther than the other.
- Unusual pupil size or shape.
- Blood in the white of the eye.
- Tears or blinking can't remove something stuck in the eye or under the eyelid.
Do's and don'ts:
- Do not touch, rub, or apply pressure to the eye.
- Never try to remove an object stuck in the eye. If it's something small, lift the eyelid and ask the child to blink rapidly to see if tears will flush out the article. If not, close the eye and get treatment right away.
- Do not apply ointment or medication to the eye.
- Do cover a cut or puncture wound. One way to protect the eye until you get treatment is to cut the bottom half off of a paper cup and gently tape the cup around the eye so nothing can touch it.
- Do not flush the eye with water unless the injury is from chemical exposure. In that case, flush with plenty of water. Dr. Jardine recommends getting in the shower with the child, keeping his or her eyes open and letting a gentle flow flush the eyes.
For a complete guide to eye injuries, you might want to print this advice from the American Academy of Ophthalmology. It could turn out to be a valuable gift to yourself and your family!