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It’s All Fun & Games Until Someone Hurts Their Eye

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are in full swing, and everyone is full of good cheer. Though some people might be greeting this season with a more anxious flare, they might be right. Children are looking forward to gifts and gadgets under the tree, but they can’t see the potential dangers that accompany their favorite toys. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has dedicated December as Safe Toys and Celebrations Month to help alert parents to the hazards that can come with popular toys.

According to the AAO, about 10% of emergency eye injuries experienced by kids are caused by toys. A survey conducted by recorded that 41% of parents “rarely” or “never” considered eye safety when it comes to picking out toys for children. Though when asked if any toys their children own could cause eye injuries, 54% responded “definitely.” These statistics are worrisome, suggesting that there’s more work to be done about protecting young eyes.

Types of Eye Injury

Most injuries that occur from injuries fall in the “mild” range, including irritation and corneal abrasions. While these are more common, parents should be aware that severe injury can occur. These include corneal ulcers, trauma cataracts, retinal tear or detachment, and even permanent vision loss. Apart from physical injury, infections can also become an issue with certain toys.

Toys to Avoid (Or Try To)


Toy Guns

While this should come as no surprise thanks to A Christmas Story, it includes the kinds of guns that shoot soft, lightweight darts, water, and water balloons. These toys can shoot distances of up to 75ft and at incredible speeds. If children must have these toys, make sure parents have them wear safety glasses and play with caution.

Wands, Swords, Sabers, Bayonets, etc.

Toy Sword

Another one that should really be a no-brainer. Toys with sharp edges or pieces pose an obvious threat to children’s eyes. This can also include toy fishing poles and the like. The end of the pole or objects secured to the end of the fishing line or string may end up in a child’s eye. It’s best to try and keep these dangers out of the hands of young ones, but have parents urge safety glasses and safe play if they must have them.

Sports Equipment

Sports equipment and eye safety

Certain sports like basketball, baseball, and racquet sports have a higher chance of eye injury. Most think of sharp, penetrating injuries when it comes to eye hazards. However, blunt trauma from a high-speed ball to the eye can lead to retinal detachment and blindness. Parents should be careful when purchasing these kinds of toys for children.

Playground Equipment

Playground Equipment

Whereas parents don’t have to avoid playgrounds, they should be advised to check the equipment for poles jutting out or rusty chains that may go unnoticed. Overgrown foliage can also pose issues from protruding sticks.

Laser Pointers & Bright Flashlights

Laser pointers can cause eye injuries.

As the sun sets earlier, “laser tag” or “flashlight tag” become popular games for children to play. Portable laser pointers, like those used for business presentations, should never be used by children, as the light intensity of these devices is sufficient to cause permanent vision loss. Even high-powered LED flashlights can be dangerous because they can cause temporary blindness, putting children at risk of a fall or other accident.

Aerosol String

Silly String

More commonly known as “Silly String,” this can of fun is usually associated with New Year’s Eve. At close ranges, these stringy toys can cause irritations, abrasions, and serious eye infections including chemical conjunctivitis.

Fireworks & Champagne

Champagne Corks

Though strictly NOT toys, fireworks and champagne are commonly used to celebrate the New Year. Encourage parents to not let children set off fireworks, as they often don’t comprehend the dangers. While popping a bottle of champagne can be exciting, WIRED found that corks can fly off at speeds of 27mph! Contact with the eye at those speeds can be devastating, so exercising safety is a must. The AAO has a few suggestions to help make sure patients ring in the new year right.

While these are types of toys, World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc., a non-profit organization, releases a list every year of the “Top 10 Most Dangerous Toys.” W.A.T.C.H. shares information about the dangers of specific toys, products, and recreational activities for children. This year’s list contains toys like the Wonder Woman Battle-Action Sword, the Spider-Man Spider-Drone Official Movie Edition, and the Nerf Zombie Strike Deadbolt Crossbow.

What If Something Happens?

No matter how much practitioners warn parents, injuries are nearly inevitable. In an eye-damaging situation, tell parents to act quickly. Eye care practices most likely have an emergency number for after-hours or on weekends. Be sure they have this number just in case. If there’s visible bleeding or swelling, parents should go to the ER or an urgent care. If something’s stuck in the eye, parents must NOT touch or mess with it, as this could make it worse. Have them go straight to the ER. A loose, make-shift eye patch like a piece of paper or a paper/Styrofoam cup can help protect the eye from further injury.

While we understand that completely cutting these toys or activities from children’s playtime is unrealistic, we urge eye care professionals to stress the simple rule: Safety First.




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  4. “Five Tips to Avoid Toy-Related Eye Injuries.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Academy of Ophthalmology, 4 Jan. 2017,
  5. Segre, Liz. “Fidget Spinners: A New Hazard to Kids’ Eyes?” Edited by Gary Heiting, All About Vision, AAV Media, LLC., May 2017,
  6. “W.A.T.C.H. Reveals Nominees Form ‘10 Worst Toys’ For 2017 Holiday Season.” World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc., World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc., 14 Nov. 2017, www.
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