Spike in Eye Injuries from Toy Guns Prompts Holiday Caution

December 2016

With the holiday toy-shopping frenzy in full swing, chances are there’s a lucky kid or two on your gift list. Of course you want to pick out something enjoyable. But some may pose a serious threat of eye injury to children, especially toy guns. Arbor Centers for EyeCare and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are urging parents to avoid buying toys that can cause serious eye injuries and even blindness in children.

Recent research from Stanford University shows airsoft guns and pellet guns caused a 500 percent rise in kids’ eye trauma between 2010 and 2012. Commonly reported eye injuries included scratches to the cornea and hyphema, a pooling of blood in the front of the eye. More severe trauma that can end in blindness includes retinal detachment and rupture of the eyeball. Another study found 251,800 children under the age of 12 were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for toy-related injuries last year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

But, not all toys have to shoot bullets to harm a child’s eyes. A foam dart gun, slingshots and even drones can also pose a danger to children’s vision. The Academy encourages parents to keep in mind the following when purchasing toys this holiday season:

  • Avoid purchasing toys with sharp, protruding or projectile parts such as airsoft guns, BB guns and paintball guns. They can propel foreign objects into the sensitive tissue of the eye.
  • For laser toys, look for labels that include a compliance statement with 21 CFR Subchapter J. This ensures the product meets the Code of Federal Regulations requirements for laser products, including power limitations.
  • When giving sports equipment, provide children with the appropriate protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses. They are shatterproof and less likely than other materials to damage the eye if broken on impact.
  • Check labels for age recommendations to be sure to select gifts that are suited for a child's age and maturity. Also, keep toys that are made for older children away from younger children.
  • Provide appropriate adult supervision to children playing with potentially hazardous toys or games that could cause an eye injury.

“Every year, we see kids shot in the eye with pellets, BBs or foam darts,” said pediatric ophthalmologist Jane Edmond, M.D., spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “These can all cause permanent, serious eye damage to a child. If you do let your children play with these types of toys, make sure they wear protective eyewear."

If your child experiences an eye injury from a toy, seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist, a physician specializing in medical and surgical eye care. For more information on toy safety, see the American Academy of Ophthalmology's toy safety page at geteyesmart.org or watch the toy safety video.